I have a monthly parking pass for a garage in Boston.
This AM when trying to exit, the pass was not working. The attendant told me I could not leave because I already left! (The day before!) They apparently have no record of me entering the parking garage at 10pm the night before. The pass was scanned to gain access to the gated garage!

He argued with me for 44 min! Yelling at me telling me I was a liar - and just repeatedly told me to put my credit card in to pay $42 lost ticket fee! Anything I said - his response was always "put credit card in" At least 4 cars pulled in behind me during the time and they kept redirecting cars to other exits.

It was ridiculous that they could not reason with a a customer-- who pays a monthly fee for a parking pass that I had in my possession. I truly was about to call the police because of the hostile way I was being spoken to.

In the end someone else paid the $42 against my will to rectify the situation.

It was a horrible helpless situation to be in.

Are they able to hold people like that over a dispute over a time of entry/exit?

  • Tell us more about how you were held against your will. Did you try to get out of your car and exit the parking garage? It sounds like they were holding your car, and you wouldn’t get out of your car. That might be the better question - can they refuse to release your car until you’ve proven that you’ve paid.
    – jqning
    Jun 1, 2019 at 14:27
  • Touche. I never considered walking away and leaving my vehicle. They most certainly have video surveillance of me entering last night -- and scanning my pass to gain access to the garage --- but they said they "don't do that" - and any discrepancies require paying for "lost ticket"
    – HappyT
    Jun 1, 2019 at 17:07
  • I don’t have time to look into it now, but MA has a garageman’s lien statute. Read up on that.
    – jqning
    Jun 1, 2019 at 21:38

2 Answers 2


The details vary according to jurisdiction, but as a rule a civilian is only allowed to physically detain you if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, and if they immediately call the police so that they can hand you over. Making off without paying is a crime in most if not all jurisdictions, but if you dispute the charge then the usual procedure is to provide proof of identity and contact details. At that point it becomes a civil matter. A car park will have your license plate and likely CCTV, so tracing you is not an issue, and in this case they probably also have your details from when you bought the pass.

However in this case it sounds like they were actually holding your car rather than you; in theory you could have walked away and left your car where it was. They may be able to hold on to your car as surety for payment depending on the small print in the contract. However if they do so and lose then they are likely to be on the hook for any costs that could be reasonably be foreseen as a result of depriving you of the use of your car.

The parking attendant's behaviour might be considered to be demanding money with menaces, which is a crime in itself (that's the UK term; I imagine the US has similar laws).

  • 2
    You as a person can not hold someone's property over a dispute about payment. Only a court can divvy up the property.
    – Putvi
    Jun 1, 2019 at 19:04
  • @Putvi interesting point. So there is a gate keeping the car in. The car could drive through and damage the gate. And then be liable for the damages. But is the refusal to lift the gate susceptible to legal damages? Like would a judge maybe offset them. “Your honor, the garage was illegally detaining my property. My only way out was through a gate which they controlled and refused to open. So I damaged their gate to retrieve my property.”
    – jqning
    Jun 1, 2019 at 21:33
  • 1
    @Putvi I agree that a creditor cannot just seize my property, but its different if they I've already given custody of it. If I took my car to be repaired I would have thought I would have difficulty demanding the return of my property before I had paid for the repair. Jun 2, 2019 at 7:50
  • 1
    @jqning That might well fall under criminal damage. I wouldn't want to try it. Jun 2, 2019 at 7:55
  • @jqning at least here in IL, someone holding you there is an issue for the police. I live in a small town so we don't have parking garages, but we get calls about people holding property in a house or business or whatever. Neither one of you can destroy the other's property or hold them or the property, but to address payments and such you go to civil court. That part won't be handled right there, bc we can't know who is telling the truth.
    – Putvi
    Jun 3, 2019 at 15:51

No, they can not restrict you or your movement in the car. Also you can not hold another's property over a civil dispute in the United States.

If you called the police, they would ask you guys to go to civil court and work it out.

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