[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of East Greenwich 6-22-1993 by Ord. No. 595 as Secs. 12-131 to 12-135 of the 1993 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
STATE LAW REFERENCES
Towing Storage Act — See R.I.G.L. § 39-12.1-1 et seq.
A police officer is authorized to impound and remove a vehicle and its contents from a street or other public area under any of the circumstances enumerated in this section:
When a vehicle upon a street is so disabled as to constitute an obstruction to traffic and the person in charge of the vehicle is, by reason of physical injury or otherwise, incapacitated to such an extent as to be unable to provide for its custody or removal;
When any vehicle is left unattended upon a street or other public area and is so parked or placed illegally as to constitute a hazard or obstruction to the normal movement of traffic or to the full use or access to that area or to any fire hydrant or other emergency apparatus by authorized emergency vehicles or personnel;
When any vehicle which has been involved in two or more violations of this chapter for which citation tags have been issued and not presented as required is parked in violation of any provision of this chapter;
When any vehicle has been parked longer than 48 hours in any Town-owned or -controlled parking area;
When any vehicle has been parked or placed in front of a public or private driveway so as to obstruct or interfere with the proper use thereof;
When any vehicle is impeding or is likely to impede the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
When any vehicle is creating an unsafe condition.
The Town may contract the services of one or more competent towing service firms for the removal and storage of motor vehicles taken into custody of the Town for any reason. Such contract shall provide for a schedule of maximum charges for towing, storage and related expenses of impounding vehicles and their contents.
Impounded vehicles and their contents shall be delivered back to the owner or other authorized person only after all fees, costs and charges for towing, hauling, storage and notice have been paid to the Town and a receipt issued therefor; or, in the event towing and storage services are provided by contract with the Town, upon the direction of the Police Department, after payment of all of the fees, costs and charges that are due.
Not later than 48 hours after a vehicle and its contents have been impounded by the Town, excluding holidays and weekends, the Police Department shall cause a notice to be given to the owner of record of such vehicle as indicated in the motor vehicle records of the State of Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles or the corresponding agency of any other state. Notice shall also be given to any lien holder of record as indicated on the motor vehicle records. The notice shall describe the vehicle and its contents, give the date the vehicle was impounded, state the grounds for impoundment, the location of the place of impoundment, and state that, unless the vehicle is redeemed within 30 days after the date of notice, the vehicle and its contents will be sold or otherwise disposed of as provided by law. The notice shall also state that, if requested within five days after the date of the notice, a hearing will be conducted to review the impoundment of the vehicle. The right to a hearing shall be deemed waived if not timely requested. Any hearing under this section shall be conducted in the manner provided hereafter.
The notice referred to in Subsection A of this section shall be given either by personal delivery to the person to be notified or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the person at his address as shown on the motor vehicle records. Notice by personal delivery shall be complete upon delivery, and notice by mail shall be deemed complete upon the return of the receipt or upon return of the notice as undeliverable, refused or unclaimed. Proof of the giving of notice in either manner may be made by affidavit of the person giving notice by personal delivery or by mail, naming the person to whom the notice was given and specifying the time, place and manner of giving notice. No notice shall be required if the vehicle is redeemed within 48 hours of the impoundment.
Vehicles impounded by the Town shall be redeemed only by the registered owner, a person authorized by the registered owner, a person entitled to possession, or one who has purchased the vehicle from the registered owner, who produces proof of ownership, authorization or entitlement and signs a receipt therefor.
Upon written request of the legal owner or the person entitled to possession of the vehicle delivered to the Town Clerk, an administrative hearing shall be held before a hearing officer. The hearing officer shall conduct the hearing in an informal manner and shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence. The hearing shall be set and conducted within five regular business days of the receipt of the request, holidays, Saturdays and Sundays not included. The hearing can be set for a later date if the owner or person entitled to possession so requests. At the hearing, the following may be contested:
The Town shall have the burden of showing there was probable cause to impound the vehicle.
At any time prior to the requested hearing, the owner or the person entitled to possession of the vehicle may regain possession of the vehicle by posting with the Town security in the form of cash in an amount sufficient to cover costs of removing and storage.
If the hearing officer finds that:
The action of the Town in taking the vehicle into custody was proper, then the hearing officer shall enter an order supporting the removal and ordering the costs of removal and storage to be paid before redemption of the vehicle.
The action of the law enforcement officer in taking the vehicle into custody was invalid, then the hearing officer shall:
Order the vehicle released to the owner;
Find that the owner is not liable for any towing or storage charges occasioned by the taking; and
Order the Town to satisfy the towing and storage lien. If the owner or person entitled to possession of the vehicle does not redeem it promptly, then any subsequent charges shall be paid by the owner or person entitled to possession.
The creation and amount of the towing and storage lien is correct, the hearing officer shall order the lien satisfied before release of the vehicle.
The creation and amount of the towing and storage lien is not correct, the hearing officer shall correct the amount of the lien and order the corrected lien satisfied before release of the vehicle.
If the person requesting the hearing does not appear at the scheduled hearing, then the hearing officer may enter an order supporting the removal and assessment of towing and storage costs and apply any security posted against such costs.
The action of the hearing officer pursuant to this section is final.
Two hearing officers shall be designated by the Town Manager. The hearing officers shall be persons other than the person who directed the impounding and storage of the vehicle. The issues before the hearing officers shall be whether there was probable cause to impound the vehicle in question and the creation and amount of the lien attached to the vehicle. "Probable cause to impound" shall mean such a state of facts as would lead a person of ordinary care and prudence to believe that there was sufficient breach of local, state or federal law to grant legal authority for the removal of the vehicle.
The Town Manager shall also designate an alternate hearing officer who will serve in the place of any hearing officer who is unable to serve in that capacity.