The Sideshow

Had your car booted? You might be able to get your money back

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

In most parts of the country, you’re at risk of having your car booted only if you have a number of unpaid parking tickets or some other serious mark on your driving record. But a number of residents in Albuquerque, N.M., have reportedly been the victims of potentially illegal car bootings from private companies and may soon be able to get their money back.

Local affiliate 4KOB reports that an Albuquerque judge will soon decide whether the private companies in question will have to refund the money of those who have had their cars booted. In its investigation, KOB found that at least one company had an employee who would wait inside a local McDonald's lot to boot people who parked there but didn't go into the fast-food restaurant—and then demand $60 in cash to remove the boot.

"I think that people need to stand up for what is right even though we are talking $60 because in the aggregate it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” lawyer Karl Kalm told the station. "It’s the right thing to do, and it won't stop unless they come forward and try to make a difference.”

The private booting in Albuquerque went into effect in 2011 when a local ordinance was passed allowing companies to boot vehicles that were illegally parked on private property. However, the ordinance includes specific guidelines such as signs that meet a basic visibility requirement so that drivers aren’t accidentally parking their cars in off-limits areas.

While the Albuquerque law is relatively new, the debate over private car boots has been going on for some time. Back in 2005, Seattle passed a law prohibiting car boot companies for using their devices on vehicles parked on private properties.

In the Seattle case, companies were charging upwards of $200 to remove the wheel-locking devices. And the law comes with some hefty backing, including penalties of up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

And in December 2011, Nevada’s attorney general outlawed the practice of booting cars in its entirety. In her opinion, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said the private booting of vehicles amounted to vandalism or even theft when it was not carried out by an official government entity.

What do you think? Should private companies have the right to boot vehicles? Or is that a responsibility that should solely be enforced by law enforcement?

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