Chicago Police DepartmentSpecial Order S07-03-04
Vehicle Tows by Private Towing Firms
Issue Date:14 September 1990Effective Date:17 September 1990
Rescinds:S90-05
Index Category:Processing Property
I.Purpose
This directive:
  • A.continues Department policy and procedures governing incidents involving vehicle owners, private towing firms, and their employees engaged in the business of towing vehicles from private property without the consent of the vehicle owner.
  • B.delineates the applicable provisions of the Municipal Code pertaining to private towing firms.
  • C.provides guidelines for Department members relating to the licensing requirements for private towing firms and their employees as set forth by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
  • D.provides procedures for Department members investigating a complaint relating to the operation of a private towing firm.
II.General Information
  • A.All private towing firms and their employees engaged in towing vehicles from private property within the City of Chicago are regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
  • B.In accordance with the provisions of the Illinois Commercial Relocation of Trespassing Vehicle Law (Illinois Vehicle Code, 625 ILCS 5/18a‑300), all private towing firms and tow truck vehicle operators displaying a currently effective Illinois Commerce Commission Relocators License are authorized to tow trespassing vehicles from private property.
  • C.This law also provides for the storage of a towed vehicle pending proof of ownership, payment of a standard towing fee, and any storage charges where applicable.
  • D.Private towing firm employees operating without a valid license from the Illinois Commerce Commission are prohibited from towing and storing a trespassing vehicle from private property. In such a case the tow truck operator would be subject to arrest for theft.
III.Pertinent Ordinances
The following provisions of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago describe the responsibilities of Private Towing Firms.
  • A.9-84-010
  • B.9-84-020
  • C.9-84-030
  • D.9-84-040
IV.Ordinance Enforcement
  • A.Private towing firms may tow vehicles parked without authorization on private property in compliance with the provisions for Title 9-Section 84-010(a) et seq, of the Municipal Code of Chicago.
  • B.Police officers observing violations of this ordinance may issue an Ordinance Complaint form in lieu of a physical arrest. A violation of this ordinance does not constitute a license violation. Therefore, the proper court branch and call time will be determined from the Department directive entitled "Court Citing and Attendance – Non-Traffic Misdemeanor and Municipal Ordinance Cases," and the complaint will be made returnable to the appropriate local court. The correct address of the local court will be entered on the Ordinance Complaint form. In other than on-view arrest situations, complainants alleging violation of this ordinance will be directed to obtain an arrest warrant or Judicial non-traffic summons from the local court.
  • C.Ordinance Complaint forms issued for violations of this ordinance will be processed in accordance with procedures established in the Department directive entitled "Ordinance Complaint Form."
V.Definition of Owner / Authorized Agent
  • A.A person entitled to the return of a towed vehicle on demand need not be the person who holds actual title to the vehicle. Section 625 ILCS 5/1-155 of the Illinois Vehicle Code defines the owner of a motor vehicle.
  • B.Adequate proof of ownership is therefore not limited to those who hold legal title, but would also include those who have some possessory interest in the towed vehicle. Evidence of such interest may include possession of one or more of the following:
    • 1.ignition and trunk keys for the towed vehicle,
    • 2.certificate of title,
    • 3.state license plate registration identification document,
    • 4.city vehicle license registration document,
    • 5.auto insurance policy on vehicle in question,
    • 6.lease or rental contracts,
    • 7.bill of sale.
VI.Procedure
  • A.A sworn member investigating a complaint relative to a private towing operation will:
    • 1.determine if the private towing firm and/or employee is properly licensed by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
    • 2.Interview all concerning parties in an effort to determine whether adequate proof of ownership has been tendered by the person demanding return of the towed vehicle.
    • 3.if the amount of proof offered is insufficient to arrive at a reasonable conclusion that the person demanding return has a right to possess such vehicle, then so inform the parties and advise the demanding person to obtain additional proof as is necessary.
    • 4.when the amount is offered is sufficient to arrive at a reasonable conclusion that the person demanding return has a right to possess such vehicle, then so inform the parties and notify the private towing firm employee that if he persists in his refusal to release the towed vehicle he will be subject to arrest.
    • 5.if the towed vehicle is not released after such notification to the private towing firm employee, the investigating officer will notify the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and request a supervisor.
  • B.The supervisor will review the facts of the incident and, if he concurs with the opinion of the investigating officer, will so inform the private towing firms employee. If there is continued refusal to release the towed vehicle, the private towing firms employee refusing to turn over the vehicle will be placed under arrest and transported to the district of arrest. The watch commander will then ensure that an assistant states attorney is notified in order to approve the felony charge(s) to be placed in compliance with existing Department directives. The owner / authorized agent of the vehicle will be responsible for signing the appropriate complaint.
  • C.Whenever a vehicle tow from a private property incident comes to the attention of the Department, the assigned officer will, in addition to order enforcement action taken, investigate to determine whether the towing company has complied with the provisions of Title 9, Section 84-010(a), at seq., of the Municipal Code of Chicago.
  • D.The Field Inquiry Section will:
    • 1.process telephonic notifications received from private towing firms relative to vehicle tows by incorporating the relevant information received on the Notification of Private Tow (CPD-31.245) and entering the necessary data into the computer for ready access.
    • 2.receive the 24 hours Tow Report - Unauthorized Vehicles (CPD-31.246) from private towing firms and utilize the data to verify the telephonic notifications.
VII.Special Regulations
  • A.Private towing firms when properly licensed and displaying an Illinois Commerce Commission Relocators License and Legally towing vehicles from private property are authorized to retain custody of all towed vehicles pending payment for towing charges established in the Illinois Vehicle Code, 625 ILCS 5/18a‑200. It should be noted that the towing fee will not exceed the amount established by State statute and that private towing firms are required to accept payment by cash, credit card, money order, travelers check, cashiers check or certified check. Storage charges will not be assessed for the first seventy-two hours of storage and the daily storage fee thereafter will be established by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Payment of storage charges will also be in accordance with the same methods as towing charges.
  • B.Private towing firms which fail to display an Illinois Commerce Commission Relocators License are not authorized to relocate a vehicle under any circumstances and therefore the illegal towing of a vehicle by a tow truck operator would be a theft and not create any type of lien. Additionally, the illegal towing of a vehicle from private property by a private towing firms employee as well as the subsequent storage of the towed vehicle in effect constitutes the exerting of unauthorized control over such vehicle and is therefore classified as a theft under Section 16-1 of the Illinois Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/16-1). When value of the vehicle in question exceeds $300.00, the proper charge is a class 3 felony.
LeRoy Martin
Superintendent of Police
88-073 RGB(mmd)