Chicago Police DepartmentSpecial Order S07-03-03
Vehicle Tows by Private Towing Firms
Issue Date:17 July 2015Effective Date:17 July 2015
Rescinds:01 January 2012
Index Category:Processing Property
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), all private towing firms and tow truck vehicle operators displaying a current Illinois Commerce Commission Relocator's 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 incidents, the private towing firm employee would be subject to arrest for theft.
III.Ordinance Enforcement
  • A.Private towing firms may tow vehicles parked without authorization on private property in compliance with the provisions of Municipal Code of Chicago, 9-84, which describes the responsibilities of Private Towing Firms.
  • B.Department members observing violations of this ordinance may issue an Administrative Notice of Ordinance Violation (ANOV) in lieu of a physical arrest. ANOVs issued for violations of this ordinance will be processed in accordance with procedures established in the Department directive entitled "Municipal Administrative Hearings.”
  • C.A violation of this ordinance does not constitute a license violation. Therefore, the proper court branch and call time will be determined by the Department directives entitled "Court Call Schedule" and "Court Citing and Attendance – Non-Traffic Misdemeanor and Municipal Ordinance Cases" and the complaint will be made returnable to the appropriate branch court. 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 branch court.
IV.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 5/3-100 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,
    • vehicle license registration document,
    • insurance policy on vehicle in question,
    • or rental contracts,
    • 7.bill of sale.
  • 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 inform the parties and advise the demanding person to obtain additional proof as is necessary.
    • 4.when the amount offered is sufficient to arrive at a reasonable conclusion that the person demanding return has a right to possess such vehicle, then inform the parties and notify the private towing firm employee that if they persist in their refusal to release the towed vehicle they will be subject to arrest.
    • 5.if the towed vehicle is not released after such notification to the private towing firm employee, the investigating member 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 they concur with the opinion of the investigating member, will so inform the private towing firm's employee. If there is continued refusal to release the towed vehicle, the private towing firm's employee refusing to turn over the vehicle will be placed under arrest and processed according to the Department directive entitled "Processing Persons Under Department Control." The Station Supervisor will ensure that an Assistant State's Attorney is notified in order to seek approval of felony charge(s) 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 member will, in addition to any enforcement action taken, investigate to determine whether the towing company has complied with the provisions of the Municipal Code of Chicago, 9-84.
  • D.The Field Services Section will:
    • 1.process telephone notifications received from private towing firms into the Hot Desk for ready access or complete the Notification Of Private Tow (CPD-31.245) if the Hot Desk is temporarily unavailable.
    • 2.receive a daily notification from the private towing firms listing the vehicles that were towed within the past 24 hours. Field Services Section will utilize the data to verify the telephone notifications.
VI.Special Regulations
  • A.Private towing firms, when properly licensed and displaying an Illinois Commerce Commission Relocator's 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. 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, traveler's check, cashier's 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 Relocator's 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 firm's 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.
(Items indicated by italics/double underline have been added or revised.)
Authenticated by: KC
Garry F. McCarthy
Superintendent of Police
14-183 SDR