Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against ‘Unconstitutional' Chicago Impound Lots

The last time Seymour Byrd saw his car was three years ago.

He had stopped to help a broken-down car here on the Dan Ryan at 95th Street and was giving the man a lift home, when police pulled him over and found drugs on his new passenger.

"I think it was unfair," he told NBC 5. "I mean once the investigation was over with, whatever they had to do, because I didn’t get arrested or anything. They just took the vehicle because that’s what the officer said he was going to take it."

Byrd's car, a 1996 Cadillac, was impounded. He said he's facing more than $17,000 in fines.

"Like I say, it’s a ridiculous situation," he said.

But Institute for Justice attorney Diana Simpson says Byrd's story is all too common. Her organization filed Tuesday a class action lawsuit on his behalf.

"It requires innocent owners to pay fines for the actions of someone else," she said. "That is unconstitutional. You cannot require someone to pay for someone else’s activity."

It is an expensive process: impound rates start at $20 a day, but they go up from there. So if your car is here more than a month, the bill could easily top $1,000

And the institute says Chicago’s practice is big business, impounding 22,000 cars in 2017 and raking in $28 million in fines and fees.

Veronica Davis says her car was impounded and disposed of after a body shop worker with a revoked license took it out on the street.

"I feel like the city of Chicago made me feel like a criminal and took away all of my human rights," Davis said.

The city’s law department said Tuesday it cannot comment on this class action lawsuit but the group filing it says its goals are clear.

"This system is unconstitutional and it is time to stop," Simpson said.

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