I have a car in working condition. The license plates expired a few months ago, and I have only driven it since then to move it around in my driveway.

The local police department placed a sticker on it declaring it a "nuisance" and giving me 7 days before it was towed. I moved deeper into my driveway since the notice was given.

Yesterday it got towed from a spot deep in my driveway.

Further details:

  • I live in Illinois.
  • My neighborhood doesn't have a Homeowners association, or anything of that nature.
  • Illinois law says vehicles cannot be removed from private property without written consent from the property owner.
  • The 4th Amendment protects me from unreasonable seizures of my property.
  • In Miranda vs the City of Cornelius, the Ninth Circuit determined their car impound, which was towed from their driveway, was an unreasonable seizure.

What allowed this seizure? What are my options here? I'm only asking here, because I'm sure there's other stuff I'm not aware of. I don't want to bring in a lawyer yet, but obviously that is an option, if it comes down to it.

Edit 3 years later: I ended up hiring a lawyer, and while it took close to 3 years for everything to get done, we sued the city and the tow yard for warrant-less search and seizure, therefore violating my 4th amendment rights. I'm not allowed to discuss the settlement, but my car was returned to me, without me paying any fees. For reference, in the lawsuit, my lawyer mentioned Collins v. Virginia multiple times.

  • Yahoo answers : whether operational or not, you must have current registration on the car.
    – mkennedy
    Jul 21, 2016 at 21:47
  • 2
    The law (625 ILCS 5/3-401) requires registration to operate on the highway. There might be an applicable local ordinance though.
    – user6726
    Jul 21, 2016 at 22:03
  • 1
    Congrats on getting your car back and winning! Apr 16, 2019 at 16:20
  • 1
    @Timothy I understand that you can't discuss the settlement and I will not ask you to do so. On a completely unrelated note, hypothetically, if you were to purchase an investment property for cash, about what might your budget be? Just curious. If you can't say, I'll just imagine you'd be in the market for something quite spacious. In any event, congratulations!
    – Patrick87
    Apr 16, 2019 at 16:52
  • @Patrick87 hahahaha! The car got broken into in the tow yard and the window was broken and the radio got stolen. The settlement is going to replace those and get the car up and running again after not being started for 3 years. I won't have much leftover for anything else, unfortunately.
    – Timothy
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


Illinois law has provisions for the seizure of "dilapidated" and "inoperable" vehicles if they are "in view of the public" according to 55 ILCS 5/5–12002.1.

In many cases such laws have been found to be unconstitutional. There is sort of a constant battle: states pass nuisance seizure laws and courts overturn those laws, then states pass more laws.

You could sue the State of Illinois and try to get 55 ILCS 5/5–12002.1 overturned. You will be the hero of hundreds of junk car owners.

  • 4
    "As used in this Section, 'inoperable motor vehicle' means any motor vehicle from which, for a period of at least 7 days or any greater period fixed by ordinance, the engine, wheels or other parts have been removed, or on which the engine, wheels or other parts have been altered, damaged or otherwise so treated that the vehicle is incapable of being driven under its own motor power". So it doesn't even pass the "inoperable" test.
    – user6726
    Jul 21, 2016 at 22:05
  • 1
    @user6726 With a law like this there are multiple ways you can contest the seizure. You can claim they came on the property without a warrant to inspect. You can claim it is was not actually a nuisance vehicle because it was operable. etc etc. There are a whole bunch of strategies you can try in court. As I was saying, these types of laws get overturned a lot.
    – Cicero
    Jul 21, 2016 at 22:08
  • But if it's operable, it needs to be registered.
    – mkennedy
    Jul 22, 2016 at 1:08
  • 4
    @mkennedy, I don't see your basis for claiming that an operable vehicle needs to be registered, as long as it is not operated on the highway.
    – user6726
    Jul 22, 2016 at 4:38
  • 1
    In California, you can pay a reduced registration fee if a car is non-operable; Illinois does not have that provision.
    – mkennedy
    Jul 22, 2016 at 4:57

In the case you linked to, they stated that, even with the Fourth Amendment, police do have a right to tow cars under the "community caretaker doctrine." They found that because that particular car was properly maintained and registered, that that car could not be towed under the doctrine. But since your car had an expired registration and was not being used, I think the police have a pretty strong case that they did have a right to tow it.

Illinois law says vehicles cannot be removed from private property without written consent from the property owner.

What law is that?? So if two people share a car and live on the same property, which is owned by one of the two people, then every time the person who isn't on the deed wants to use the car, they have to get written consent from the person on the deed? (Apparently even if they are on the title to the car!?) I find it extremely hard to believe that there is a law that says exactly what you claim, and even if there is, it may not apply to the police.

  • 8. No removal of a vehicle from private property shall be done except upon express written instructions of the owners or persons in charge of the private property upon which the vehicle is said to be trespassing. ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K4-203
    – Timothy
    Jul 21, 2016 at 22:13
  • 6
    Did you see the part about "vehicle is said to be trespassing"? Those are the conditions for towing a trespassing vehicle. No one said your vehicle was trespassing. The argument was that it was a community nuisance. The law you cite is unrelated to your situation.
    – SegNerd
    Jul 21, 2016 at 22:18

I've never heard that about California and I'm sure there's more provisions if so.. However, you are fighting a battle that's not feasible or will not change anything, too many loop holes. Why? Well you have city, county and state code enforcement laws.. let me go back a little in history, a Dad has a lot of acres at his home and his 3 sons are stealing cars and stashing them way back in the back.. So the Police, law enforcement, etc comes to Dad's house and say we need to check your Land for stolen vehicles. So Dad pumps the shotgun and tells law enforcement to get off property or he will shoot them, they leave.. Someone or somebody owns the property so the courts found a way to come on your property basically with no warrent and check vehicles in plain site usually but then he sees probable cause on other things and so it begins.. Now this is made up but it's truly how this revolutionalized basically. Code enforcement can tow your car if its leaking to much oil on driveway.. Now of course this is a big scope of things there are rules to follow by all ( but he said she said) and for your vehicle i believe they considered that it was inoperable because of the expired registration.. meaning inop because you really can't drive it! No wheel, car jacked up, etc is a safety issue of course, thats also why they can pull in but I know yours wasnt. The biggie!!! Go get your car immediately because the charges daily and the the registration fees they add in the longer it sits at the Wrecker yard are very expensive.. I hope you enjoyed and lastly yes I know these laws pretty well and they differ state to state but the primary is the same and again I just tried to give you a bigger picture and how it became basically and your odds. Ps. The letter your speaking of thats needed is if its for a dispute of a vehicle on someone's Land they own, inop or not.. A cop doesn't need your letter, ya know..

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