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Revere owes Honda $16,092 for a car it had towed away during a criminal investigation, judge rules

A federal judge ruled today that Revere's policy on car towing - to notify the car's owner but not any companies that might have financed it - is unconstitutional and so it owes Honda the full value of a car the city had towed then let a private tow company sell without first notifying the car maker's financing wing.

At issue was a 2016 Civic that Revere Police seized and had towed to police headquarters in December, 2016 as part of an investigation into stolen property and credit-card misuse - almost two months after a New York woman had bought the car with financing from Honda. Police had a local tow company take the car and store it after the investigation. Eventually, the company notified the owner she had to pay for storage or it would sell the car; when she didn't respond, that's what the company did, earning $15,000 on July 30, 2017.

Only problem: By financing the car, Honda had a lien on it and it should have been notified about the impending sale and be repaid for the value of the lien, but it wasn't. So Honda sued Revere in federal court.

In a ruling today, US District Court Judge Allison Burroughs writes that the way the car was disposed of violated Honda's Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, and so Revere's regulations on car disposal, which do not include a requirement to alert lienholders, is unconstitutional.

Although federal courts in the district have never dealt with liens on cars in cases like this before, Burroughs cited cases involving the disposition of real estate that "the law is settled that all parties with a valid property interest are entitled to notice and a hearing" - as well as cases involving cars in New York City.

Therefore, as a lienholder, Honda should have received adequate notice and had the opportunity for a hearing before the Vehicle was put up for sale. See Ford Motor, 394 F. Supp. 2d at 610. As Honda’s opportunity for due process was in essence “reduced to zero,” any interest Revere had in favor of the policy is moot. ... Because Revere’s policy falls short of the minimum standard of Due Process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, the Statute as written and as applied is unconstitutional.

Burroughs then awarded Honda $16,092, the amount it claims it could have made if it had sold the car itself.

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Comments

And can't understand how Revere thought this was legal.

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Voting closed 59

The cops have gotten used to seizing property they say has been associated with a crime, then selling it. It's called civil forfeiture. IANAL either.

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Voting closed 31

This was unrelated to civil forfeiture. This was a case of unclaimed property, and of retitling a vehicle that had a lien on it.

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Voting closed 23

I didn't mean to say that this was a civil forfeiture, only that the cops were used to taking property from people, because of that screwed-up body of law.

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Voting closed 19

They wanted storage charges and sold it, even though a finance company owned it.

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Voting closed 14

If the owner of a vehicle owes parking tickets, doesn't pay them and the vehicle gets towed, the City keeps the car until the tickets and fees are paid. If the owner never pays them, the car is auctioned off, but the city only keeps the fees that are owed to them. The owner always gets the money from the sale (probably gonna lose out anyway).

But a vehicle or property that is seized as a part of civil forfeiture (more common in other states), there is a process which must go through the DA's office, courts and finally the money and property is split among the DA and City. But if you don't own the car, I'm not sure the City can seize it (although we can fine drivers for driving other vehicles they don't own).

Anyway it isn't exactly clear how this vehicle was seized.

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Voting closed 13

Was the woman eventually convicted?

Or do the cops get to steal someone's car during the investigation, and give it to a connected tow company to ransom for storage and then sell, regardless of what a judge or jury says?

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Voting closed 25

There is a legal process behind that.

But this looks like a simple tow and hold case, not a seizure from criminal activity.

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Voting closed 14

The cops can take any car and the da or ada files for forfeiture. If it’s leased the car will sit there until the company takes it back. It could takes a year or more if it’s a criminal matter and that is a year of the car sitting in a tow lot or auction yard if Honda/whatever company allows the leasee to fight for it back. So even if she was found not guilty she would owe a lot of money just to get the car out. It happened to a friend of mine. He was found not guilty but GM was contacted by police to take the car out of the impound lot before the price sky rocketed. GM recovered the car and pretty much took it back from my friend who in the end was found to have done nothing wrong. But because the case took over a year GM already repossessed the vehicle and ended the lease. Which in turn screwed up his credit score and left him with no vehicle. As well as paying the left over cost of selling the vehicle at a dealer auction. So he lost the truck. Fucked yo his credit score and owned a few grand all because our court system here is just as fucked up as almost every other system we have in place. Sorry for the long winded response but seen this happen first hand with a criminal case where the defender was found to have done nothing wrong and still get fucked over.

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Voting closed 12

One more thing for the Revere Trumpies to go insane about!

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Voting closed 14

a car towed in Revere made me immediately think about the President of the United States. Absolutely.

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I weirdly agree with the leasing company. It really is their car. They hold the note, not the leasee.

They should have been notified.

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Voting closed 29

You're supposed to want for government to not be able to seize private property.

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Voting closed 28

My point is i rarely side with big corporations

but yes Honda is in the right. City Towing policy stinks and I wonder how they were able to even do that, because most leases are in the banks name and the owners. (registration even usually says who the leasing company is) . They should have called both.

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Voting closed 15

I'm not sure if generally siding with the wrong over the right simply because they are perceived to be less wealthy is a sustainable ideology in the long run.

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Voting closed 12

Minor point: it sounds like the car was owned with a loan, not leased. But I'm not sure what rights a car lien gives you.

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Voting closed 10

Wouldn't the woman's contract with Honda make her responsible for anything that happens to the car until it paid in full or returned?

From Honda's point of view, why should it matter if the car is destroyed by the town or destroyed by a collision caused by (for example) her drunk driving? (Using the example of drunk driving because insurance won't cover damage incurred while intoxicated.)

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Voting closed 17

Whether the car is damaged or not damaged, they still own the car (but might owe fees and tickets)

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Voting closed 21

How was Honda to recover the value of the car? If they sued the woman, and she couldn't pay, they would normally repossess the car. Now the town has sold the car to somebody else, improperly, as it turns out. The woman didn't get the money or the car, and Honda didn't get the money or the car. Only Revere got the car, then the money. So they got sued.

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Voting closed 24

Honda could repossess the car from the new buyer, and let that person sue the city for selling stolen goods.

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Voting closed 20

But did the VTEC kick in?

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Voting closed 13