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  4.  » Class-action lawsuit filed over O’Fallon towing fee – .Crime & Controversy –

Class-action lawsuit filed over O’Fallon towing fee – .Crime & Controversy –

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2012 | Uncategorized |

Class-action lawsuit filed over O’Fallon towing fee – .Crime & Controversy –
O’FALLON —    A Mascoutah man has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of O’Fallon claiming a fee to tow his vehicle after a drunken driving arrest violated his due process of rights. Police say such fees are necessary to recoup time lost by patrolmen and administrators dealing with impounded vehicles.

Rogelio V. Saladrigas, 48, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 6 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. His attorneys, the law firms of Polinske and Associates of Edwardsville and Holland, Groves, Schneller and Stolze in St. Louis, filed similar lawsuits on behalf of others against the cities of Edwardsville, Collinsville, Granite City and Alton on the same day in Madison County Circuit Court.

Saladrigas seeks the return of $500 he and others arrested while driving their vehicles in O’Fallon paid as an administrative fee in order to retrieve vehicles from a towing company, according to court documents. Saladrigas was arrested by O’Fallon police Oct. 8 on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The fee is not a tow fee but merely a receipt given to the plaintiffs so they can then appear at the towing facility which possesses their automobile, and then pay the actual towing fee,” Saladrigas’ complaint states. ” The fees required … have no rational basis in accomplishing the means as stated by the ordinance. There is no rational justification for imposing a $500 administrative fee upon a motorist to merely issue that person a receipt stating they have paid $500.”

O’Fallon Police Capt. Eric Van Hook disputes the lawsuit’s allegations.

“You end up losing two officers. One handles the arrest while the other remains behind to handle the tow,” Van Hook said. “After that there is the processing we deal with. I think a lot of people may be surprised, for lack of a better term, how many vehicles we deal with in a year and how many are actually towed. It adds up over the course of the year. We lose a lot of manpower. We lose valuable time off the streets to police our community, which is exactly why we did this.”

The city has collected $133,500 from the $500 towing fee since O’Fallon aldermen approved the measure in January 2010. The council approved tow fees of $250 for “lesser offenses” and $500 for “certain serious offenses,” though, the lawsuit only seeks compensation for those fined $500. Serious offenses range from driving with a revoked license to aggravated assault and drug-related crimes.

Van Hook said other courts have upheld municipalities’ right to collect administrative tow fees in similar lawsuits in the Chicago area. He added the cases set a precedent he believes will follow in the current suit against O’Fallon, yet such lawsuits “make us better by making sure we’re playing the rules, but with the state law I think O’Fallon is definitely in compliance.”

St. Clair County Associate Judge Vincent Lopinot sentenced Saladrigas on Dec. 22 for the above-mentioned charge of driving under the influence of alcohol to a $3,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and completion of an alcohol abuse treatment.

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