Coalition on Homelessness v. City and County of San FranciscoAnnotate this Case
In a challenge to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s policy of towing safely and lawfully parked vehicles without a warrant based solely on the accrual of unpaid parking tickets, the Coalition argued that the warrantless tows are unreasonable seizures within the meaning of article I, section 13 of the California Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The trial court denied a motion for a writ of mandate and declaratory and injunctive relief.
The court of appeal reversed. The challenged warrantless tows are not permissible under the vehicular community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The defendants have not shown that legally parked cars with unpaid parking tickets that present no threat to “public safety and the efficient movement of vehicular traffic” may be towed under that exception. The court rejected an argument that the governmental interest in deterring parking violations and nonpayment of parking fines justifies warrantless tows under the vehicular community caretaking exception. The tows at issue may not be justified by analogy to warrantless property seizures in the forfeiture context.