Monday, March 29, 2010

Texas Towing Law Change Puts Parking Facilities and Wrecker Drivers at Immediate Risks of Arrest

It's official, the changes made in the last session of the Texas Legislature to the Towing Law, Occupation Code 2308.301, puts towing companies and parking facilities at huge risks. This issue I am speaking of is, "bears the words "Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Towed or Booted at Owner's or Operator's Expense". For the most part, I would venture to say that 99% of the parking facilities that unauthorized vehicles are towed from today, are not in compliance, because they fail to contain all of the required text.

After speaking of Texas Legislative Council drafting attorney this morning about this issue, the red and white towing sign, unless it includes, "and booting" and "or booted", the sign is not legal.

So what does this mean?

They say nothing is simple, but this issue to me, is simple, being in fact that if the red and white towing sign posted at a parking facility, vehicles are being towed from, do not have the words "AND BOOTING" or "booted", the sign fails to provided the required notification, as mandated by State Law.

Law enforcement agencies would be wise to educate their officers or deputies to recognize that if the towing sign is not legal, and the steps they should take to address the issue. Remember, it's a class B misdemeanor for violating the Towing Law. 

Even if a parking facility or towing company does not boot vehicles on a specific parking facility, the required information in regards to booting MUST be on the sign, for the tow or sign to be legal.

I expect in the next session of the Legislature to have these issues corrected and to increase the criminal penalty for providing kickbacks to parking facilities to a State Jail Felony.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Unlicensed Tow Trucks Still A Problem

Over the weekend, I came upon a Dodge Dually with a wheel lift hanging under the frame. The license plate on the truck was not the required Tow Truck. When the light changed, I drove by slowly and didn't see any marking that would told the company, nor did this truck have the required TDLR registration number on.

Yesterday, I phoned a good friend, Mr. Don Vara with the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation, to inquire about if all towing type vehicles had to registered with his agency. The answer yes, this truck should be registered, but it is not registered, yet taking consumers vehicles without their knowledge.

Still, there are unlicensed tow truck and wrecker drivers harming consumers daily, all over our state.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

State of Texas Updates Texas Towing Law Online

The State of Texas has updated their server to include the newest version of the Texas Towing Law, Occupation Code Chapter 2308.251 - 2308.407.

There is no reason why any law enforcement agency can give the excuse that it's a civil matter when it states in black and white in Occupation Code 2308.405, it's a Class B Misdemeanor.

Law enforcement agencies across the state of Texas need to educate themselves to address the continued criminal conduct by towing companies, wrecker drivers and parking facilities who engage in criminal conduct daily for financial gain.

It's a shame other law enforcement agencies don't take the same approach for upholding the towing law as the Austin Police Department.  (SXSW Parking)

There is no valid excuse to allow criminal conduct by towing companies to go unnoticed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SXSW Towing Scams Expected in Austin

 #1 Tow Fee Scam in Austin, nothing should be charged here

Every year in Austin, the South by Southwest Film & Music Festival bring thousands of people to our city. In addition to this event, the UIL Boys Basketball Finals are held which bring several more thousands of people with their vehicles to Austin.

The primary scam scheme being when a wrecker driver is caught by the owner or operator hooking up their vehicle, demands an "on-site" drop fee to release the vehicle, when not allowed. The City of Austin regulates the fees that wrecker drivers can collect, which is $50, only if the vehicle is full prepared to transport. That is the issue a majority of motorist haven't a clue what ready to transport means, and yes, we have wrecker drivers who collects fee they are not allowed, or provide a consumer the required written receipt. Most vehicle owner or operators offers to pay to not tow their vehicle, unaware they shouldn't be charged anything.

 City regulated fee of $50 for "Ready to Transport"

The citizens of Austin and many visitors can be assured, if they file an offense report for a wrecker ordinance violation, something the City of Austin has failed to alert potential victims of these types of towing scams, they have a right to call 311 and file a report, which is investigated by two detectives.

Many have asked me why do I care.

I care because based on history of private property impounds (towing), I know there are towing company owners, who do nothing but private property impounds, that bribe parking facility owners/managers/operators and employ wrecker drivers who are nothing more than criminals, who risk their freedom for an extra few dollars.

It gives the appearance of a "cat and mouse" game, as when a wrecker driver knowingly tows a vehicle in violation or accepts payment which is not allowed. The mindset of these individuals who repeatedly take advantage of consumers for financial gain, is their chance of being caught is slim, in most cities across Texas, their chances of getting caught are zero.

But, here in Austin, the chances of being arrested for the same criminal fraud, that happens elsewhere, like San Antonio, are higher, as potential victims have a source of illegal towing scam information in Austin thru Texas Towing Compliance.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Judges Bring Hope For Intergrity in the Tow Hearing Courts

With the recent primary election across the state, new Judges have been elected, some of which, we hope they weren't bought off by special interest. We can only assume, these new and current Judges will familiarize themselves with the most recent changes to the Texas Towing Law, Occupation Code 2308.251 thru 2308.458. The State of Texas has announced the latest revisions of the last legislature will be updated on the state's servers by March 15th.

Still, based on documentation from the vehicle storage facility provided me from consumers, the majority of TDLR licensees are not complying with the regulations requiring a copy of the tow truck receipt be provided and failing to provide all the required information to file a request for a tow hearing.

Victims have told me, when they arrived at the court to file the request, court staff is misinformed regarding the changes, specifically, the jurisdiction for the hearing, being where the vehicle was towed from. Some courts have never heard of a tow hearing, as the ones that do, make rulings so far fetched, it's mind boggling.

I can only hope that when March 15th arrives, some of the misinformation will stop and the Courts will rule based on evidence, rather than campaign donations or social circles.

The next most important step will be getting those law enforcement agencies, who currently provide a safe haven for criminal minded towing companies who's drivers target minority drivers. Until law enforcement statewide takes the same approach as the Austin Police Department does with criminal illegal towing, these issues we are observing will continue. One has to wonder why any law enforcement agency, let along a certified peace officer, would allow someone to commit a Class B Misdemeanor and do nothing.

In the next session of Texas Legislature, I intend to lobby for a State Jail felony charge for violating Occupation Code 2308.401 and 402, the law the prohibits a towing company from having a financial interest in the parking facility. Until the commercial bribery is stopped, corruption within the private property impound industry will flourish as it does today.