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Chacham's Journal: Chronicle: Car towed due to expired plates (2) 4

Journal by Chacham

[Continuing from last time.]

I got home on Wednesday, May 7th around 4:30 knowing my car would not be there. I checked my apartment, and found no details of who took the car. I walked towards the street that enters into the complex, and found the sign mentioning Quality Towing at 248-799-2983. Uh-oh, i am firm believer that people only advertise that which isn't true.

I immediately called them on my cell phone, and asked what was going on, and found out that my car had been impounded for lack of registration. To get my car back, i would need to show up with registration and $160 cash! $135 was their fee and $25 was for the state. There was also a $15 daily "rental" fee if i left my car there. She continued to tell me that i needed to come before five o'clock. When i mentioned that it was already 4:30, she said she would waive Thursday's $15 if i came on Thursday. I then went into the apartment complex office to request a copy of my contract. I felt something was not right.

I wouldn't have $160 in cash before Friday, because that is the day that i would usually go to the bank. I couldn't register my car, being i no longer had a way to get to the Secretary of State. The bicycle option was out due to rain.

That's when i realized i had friends. My neighbor lent me the cash, and my carpool was willing to drop me off. My brother-in-law wanted to review the lease. So, Thursday it was.

On Thursday, 5/9/2008, we went to the place after work. Google maps put their building in middle of eight mile road. The other two listings, which had different phone numbers, were more accurate with them on Telegraph Rd.

We called for directions. They were hard to find because they were behind another building. Indeed, we missed them the first time, and found them on the second pass. A small building next to a lot. There was a tow truck unloading another victim.

I went inside and showed my old (no longer valid) registration, which she had told me on the phone that i could use. $160 later i was able to leave. Though, i first inquired as to how they got my car. Apparently, they show up at the beginning of every month. I was tagged and picked up between 36 and 48 hours later. I mentioned that it was a short period; she responded the sticker said so. I mentioned that cars are left on the highway for longer; she responded that it is down to 18 hours now.

I was glad to get out of the building. Two people were there, one had left in the middle. They were in a small room. What a dump.

Off to my car. My wonders of how they moved my car without the keys were answered when i saw both car door unlocked, and the car was parked in first gear. To their credit my seat and mirrors were not adjusted.

On Friday, after work, i went to the Secretary of State (SoS) to register my car. I took a book with me because of the expected long wait. Perhaps, i remembered an earlier visit.

The SoS is a government facility. As such, things are slow and convoluted. I walked through the door and was greeted by the security guard, from there i had to wait in line. The line progressed slowly but surely, until finally i was at its head. Finally, i was called up to the counter and asked what i wanted. I responded that i needed to renew my tags, and the clerk handed me a number. From there I had to go sit and wait for my number to be called, which took about an hour. When called I got to stand on the "grey box" on the carpet with one or two others, and we were handled in order. In summary, i waited in line to get a number to be called to wait in another line to be handled in order. Or, put another way, i had to wait in line to wait in line to wait in line. Our government at its finest.

Well, I finally had my time at the counter and was asked what i wanted. I told her to renew my tags, and she went through the motions. After a moment, she responded--almost challengingly--something like "you already renewed, what do you want?" I already renewed? She figured i just wanted a new copy of my tag. I agreed, and for $10 got it.

I would like to note that it is probably called tags because it was one tag per plate, and cars had two plates, one in front and one in back. Michigan no longer requires two plates, so only one tag is given.

At this point i was confused. My car was taken because it wasn't registered. Yet the SoS tells me it was registered. Someone made a mistake, and i just wasted time and money because of it.

I put my tag on the plate without much delay, and gave my brother-in-law the lease agreement.

A few days later i received a letter from the State saying that my car was impounded, and that i could contest the impoundment for a cost of $65. Amongst the reasons for contesting were wrongly impounded and unfair cost. I gave that to my brother-in-law as well, and asked him what he thought. He responded that i had a good case, and that they had no right to take my vehicle. Basically, i was on private property, so it was not public area. I rent an apartment there, so i had the right to park my vehicle there. The car had plates and was registered for the year, it was just the tags were from the prior year. There was no rule in the agreement that my tags had to be up to date, as what is says is "All automobiles on the premises must have current license plates and must be maintained in operable condition." I had driven my car the morning it was taken, so it was definitely operable. The license plate was recent as it was registered for the year, but the tag expired two months prior. I wonder if "plate" includes "tag", and if it does, does it mean that the tag displayed has to be recent, or just actually be recent. That point may decide the case.

I went to the local court house and filed for a law suit. The lady looked almost incredulously at me asking if i realized that the court fee was $65. I guess for $65 to save $160 didn't seem like it was worth the trouble, especially when i already had the car back. She then went to set the date, and it seemed that only every other Tuesday was good, because a clerk (or perhaps it was someone else) was sometimes needed, and that person was there at those times. The first Tuesday was June 10th. I rejected it because of Shavous. The clerk looked and said that the judges would probably take off then too. Next Tuesday seemed OK, and the date was set for the 24th. As for the times, the choices were 9:00am and 1:00pm. I chose 1pm figuring i could leave during the lunch hour that i never take, and besides, the judge might be ina good mood assuming he just had a good lunch himself.

I emailed the SoS asking how to get a record of my registration. I got a response, rather quickly i should add, that the required form form that could be downloaded. The cost was $7 per record, and $1 extra per record to have it authorized. I filled out the sheet asking for record for (iirc) January 2008 and check the box to have them authorized, as i was planning on presenting it in court. I asked my sister to fax it for me and i received a mail with two digitally authorized records. One was for 2007, which i did indeed register late, and one for 2008 which i registered on February 1st, 2008. So, i now have proof of that.

Shortly afterwards, i received my official court date notice in the mail. It listed Quality Towing as well. A few days later i received another mailing stating the court date had been adjourned until July 8th, which is where it currently stands. My brother-in-law said he may come watch the case, which i feel would be quite comforting.

And now to wait. I am a bit nervous about the case, but also happy that i am willing to stand up for myself in this particular case.

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Chronicle: Car towed due to expired plates (2)

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  • I've been to Court many times as a paralegal, but have never had to represent myself in a case. From what you've written, I think you have an excellent case. The only general advice I'd give you is to document everything (which it sounds like you've already done) and have multiple copies of the paperwork so you can hand things out as needed if any copies are lost. The more organized you appear, the better you will look to the Court.

    I don't know what, or if any, discovery is allowed, your brother-in-law

    • by Chacham (981)
      Thanx for the note.

      Should i copy the entire agreement a few times? That's a bunch of pages. Also, the authorized record could be copied, but it would not be an authorized (or is it notarized) copy.

      My brother-in-law is actually a tax lawyer. So while he has a lot of experience, a petty case like this is not exactly his forte.

      How do i even ask for the court fee back?

      discovery? Ask if there is an agreement?

      I think i know what you mean, but does a small case like this warrant that?
      • The disclaimer is that IANAL and my smallest civil case thus far has still been for just under a million dollars in dispute. So I don't know small claims as well. My thought was, that in addition for asking for the $160 back, you could also ask for the $65 back since they should have known that you were not actually towable. But, it may not be recoverable, and may unnecessarily complicate things for you since you'd ahve to justify why you think you're entitled to it.

        The copies can be just copies, AFAIK

        • by Chacham (981)
          Thank you for you comments. I'll take them under advisement. :P

          The copies sound like a good idea. Three copies should be fine. As far as collecting on that, the cost would be trivial. As for the $65, i would like to recover that. Perhaps i shall do some research to find out my options.

          I plan to keep you posted. And again, thank you for the comment.

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