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My car was impounded in MD due to expired tags. I've since paid the state and county fines for this, but the county police use a private impound lot which charges exorbitant fees for storage. MD law gives county officials the right to take possession of a car for unpaid fines, and authorizes them to contract the service to a third party. However, since paying the fine, the county is no longer in possession of the vehicle, the towing company is. MD vehicle antitheft law states "A person may not take a vehicle without the consent of the owner of the vehicle and with the intent to deprive the owner temporarily of the owner's possession of the vehicle, even if without the intent to steal the vehicle."

What exactly prevents me from using this antitheft law to regain possession of the car without paying? (I realize this argument would not hold up in court, I'm just curious about exactly why that is)

  • Without knowing the specifics of the laws involved, it is possible that the impound company has a legally enforceable lien over the car; until it is discharged they are entitled to retain possession – Dale M Jul 9 '15 at 1:58
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    This is interesting - I'm looking for a lien statute and I found this which begs the question what are "actual costs"? shall return possession or use of the vehicle to the registered owner of the vehicle on payment of all actual costs of immobilizing the vehicle, or towing, preserving, and storing the impounded vehicle mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016rs/statute_google/gtr/27-111.pdf – jqning Jul 9 '15 at 15:15
  • what county are you in and what statute or regulation gives county officials the right to take possession? – jqning Jul 10 '15 at 15:53
  • while i wait for the answer to the above comment let me say - you might want to contact a local attorney. I cannot find a statute that gives towing company a lien, it appears that MD does not have this. However they do have abandoned car statutes that allow the storage place to sell you car - this is based on time and there are notice requirements but it might be dangerous to you. if you steal your car back it seems that you can have some fun constitutional arguments but you might be making them from jail. – jqning Jul 10 '15 at 16:07
  • I'm in Baltimore County. The statute that gives the county the right to take possession is in Baltimore County Code Article 18 (18-2-708): " (a) Vehicle subject to impoundment. If a vehicle has three parking citations that have not been paid, not less than 30 days after the date for paying the third of the three citations has passed without payment, the Chief of Police may impound the vehicle." Interestingly, MD law §13-709 states:"The cancellation, suspension, or revocation of the registration of a vehicle does not affect the status of the title to or any property rights in the vehicle." – DNyke Jul 11 '15 at 0:48
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For starters, you can't "use the antitheft law" because you are not a criminal prosecutor.

I'm not sure that the criminal statute would support a civil action for replevin, at least until you've paid all the fees that the towing company is explicitly authorized to charge and they still refuse to release the vehicle. And if that was the case, you wouldn't need the criminal statute — the title to your vehicle should be sufficient.

See Baltimore County Code (2003) §18-2-203 for the police department's authority to remove and store cars with expired registration "by contract."

See also §§ 21-16-111.1 et seq. and §§21-16-123 et seq. regarding police initiated towing and licensing of towing companies. The latter set of statutes and the fee schedule fixed by the county are available here.

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