Towing of Vehicles
We understand that having your vehicle towed can be upsetting and there may be questions as to why it was necessary. Vehicles can be removed or impounded by the police department for a variety of reasons. The task of towing a vehicle consumes valuable public resources and time, but is a necessary part of the services that we provide to the community. The authority for taking this action is authorized under the California Vehicle Code and Healdsburg City Ordinance #1005. If you need more information about a vehicle that has been towed, you may call 707-431-3377. This is a 24 hour contact number.
Common Reasons Vehicles Are Towed
One common reason a vehicle is towed is that the driver of a vehicle is operating with a suspended license or without having been issued a driver's license. The officer may impound a vehicle for a 30-day period pursuant to section 14602.6 of the California Vehicle Code. The driver or owner of the vehicle may request a hearing to determine if the impound was legal. This request must be in writing and be made within 10 days of the date the vehicle was towed. You can stop by the police department at any time and request a tow hearing form. A decision will be made within 48 of the request excluding weekends or holidays (22852 CVC).
There are several reasons that qualify for immediate release of the vehicle prior to the expiration of the 30 day impound period (14602.6 CVC):
- The registered owner of the vehicle presents a valid driver's license to the police department and pays all storage and impound costs.
- The driver of the vehicle subsequently obtains a valid driver's license or has the license suspensions reversed.
- The vehicle is a rental car. This car may be released to an authorized agent of the rental company.
- The vehicle has been reported stolen.
- The vehicle is financed through a dealer, bank or licensed financial institution. This vehicle may be released to an authorized agent of the business.
What If I Did Not Know the Person Driving My Vehicle Was Unlicensed or Suspended?
Under California Vehicle Code section 14604, it is the responsibility of the vehicle owner to ensure that the person operating the vehicle is properly licensed. You may be charged with a crime for allowing an unlicensed or suspended driver to operate your vehicle.
- Expired Registration Towing: A vehicle may be towed or impounded if the registration has been expired for over 6 months, or if it is displaying false or fictitious registration. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 22651 (o), the vehicle will only be released after presentation of current registration. The owner of the vehicle is responsible for towing and storage costs.
- Driver has been arrested and the vehicle towed: The vehicle can be stored by the officer during the arrest. This is authorized by section 22651 (h) of the California Vehicle Code. The registered or legal owner may have the vehicle released to their custody upon request.
- Vehicle left parked on a street over 72 hours: The police department receives numerous neighborhood complaints of unused vehicles being parked on the public street for extended periods of time. Under Healdsburg City Ordinance HCO 10.52.010 the vehicle may be cited ($143.00 fine) or towed if there is a violation of the 72 hour limit. A courtesy notice is left on the first complaint by a parking enforcement officer. Subsequent violations may result in the towing of the vehicle. If you have a vehicle that is not being driven on a regular basis, it must be stored on your private property.
- Abandoned Vehicle Towing: Automobiles that have suffered extensive vandalism or accident damage may be removed immediately if they present a safety hazard. This also encompasses vehicles parked on public streets which are missing engines, transmissions or other major components. The authority for removal is pursuant to section 22669 (d) California Vehicle Code. If your vehicle is towed for this reason, you may not be able to legally recover the vehicle. Many of these vehicles are reported by neighbors or officer observations when driving around the community.
Release of a Towed Vehicle
The owner of record or legal owner is the only person that we can release a vehicle to. We will check DMV registration records prior to issuing a release. If you are not the registered owner or legal owner you are not entitled to recover the vehicle. This is to ensure that the vehicle is being returned to the legally authorized owner. The cost for a tow release at the police department is $109.
My vehicle was towed, but I am not sure what agency is responsible, what can I do?
The Healdsburg Police Department generally only tows vehicles that are within city limits. We will on occasion tow a vehicle from the freeway or surrounding area. The California Highway Patrol and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department also operate within the Healdsburg city limits. If you are unsure who towed your vehicle, first check for the agency name on the top of the citation you received and make direct contact with them. You may call the Healdsburg Police Department dispatch center at 707-431-3377 if you have the vehicle license plate. We might be able to assist you in locating your vehicle. All police agencies enter towed vehicles in a statewide data base.
Personal Property Inside of a Towed Vehicle
When an officer tows a vehicle, they conduct a routine inventory of the personal property contained within the vehicle. The officer is looking for valuable property and documenting that it was with the vehicle at the time of removal. A record of the vehicle contents is on file at the police department and the tow company. If you are the registered owner of the towed vehicle, you may contact the tow company and schedule a time to meet at the yard and recover personal belongings. This is normally done during normal business hours. If you require after hour access to a vehicle, the tow company may charge you for the service.
Repossessed Vehicle Towing
The repossession of a vehicle by a lender or vehicle owner is a civil matter and not subject to police review or investigation. This action is usually the result of a contract dispute or failure to make payments as promised. Licensed repossession companies usually notify the Healdsburg Police Department if they have successfully taken a vehicle, so that we are aware of the action. You may call the Healdsburg Police Department dispatch center at 707-431-3377 if you have any questions. A repossessed vehicle is not considered stolen. You should contact your lender or the repossession company for further information. The police department role in this civil process is to keep the peace. We will not rule on the validity of the contract or why the vehicle was repossessed.
Private Property Towing
The police department has very limited authority in removing vehicles from privately owned property. The property owner must arrange their own towing after ensuring compliance with California Vehicle Code Section 22658. The police department may remove vehicles that have been reported stolen or have been used in a crime. If you need further information about private property towing, please call 707-431-3377 and ask for the community service officer. There is also a private property towing packet available in the police department lobby that explains the process.
The police department has two private towing companies that have been licensed to provide tow services. The tow costs and storage fees are reviewed and approved through the police department. The City of Healdsburg does not receive any of the proceeds or franchise fees from the towing and storage of vehicles. The Healdsburg City Council has authorized the police department to collect set fees per tow to offset city costs. For a normal tow, the release fee is $109. A vehicle impounded for 30 days has a city fee of $109 assessed.