Federal Lawsuit Challenges City of Chicago Controversial Towing Program

"...as a society, we're supposed to have laws that also protect us,” Joseph Walawski said

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A Chicago man who filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday is going after the City of Chicago, challenging the city’s controversial towing program.

All it takes is two or more unpaid parking tickets for the City of Chicago to boot and then tow a residents’ car—and it happened almost 20,000 times last year.

Now, a Chicago man is suing because he says the city program 'tow & sell' cost him far more than the price of a couple of tickets

“I went out to the vehicle and I saw the boot on the car and I was like 'oh my God,’” Joseph Walawski said.

Walawski said he parked his new Nissan on the Northwest Side two years ago and it was booted and ticketed because he had three previous parking tickets.

The city towed his car to the City of Chicago Central Auto Pound and when he couldn’t pay for the tow and the tickets, the City sold it to a towing company for a couple hundred dollars.

“I didn’t feel it was right that I was going to be left with over a $17,000 debt for an unpaid $500 in tickets,” he said.

Walawski claims the city’s towing program is unconstitutional.

"It's a, it's a basic tenet of American law that the government can't take your property without just compensation," Attorney Jacie Zolna said. "I think everyone is familiar with that concept, and in this case, that's exactly what this city is doing. They are taking someone's property, and they are not giving them anything in return, except additional debt."

A spokesperson for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said the administration has already taken action to begin reforming the city’s historically regressive ticket policies “to reduce the burden of city debt and expand access to debt compliance programs for low income residents. While we have not seen and therefore cannot comment on this suit, it's important to note that the administration is actively working to evaluate the City's complex impound systems to find ways to enhance them and ensure that residents aren't losing their cars simply due to inability to pay," the statement issued read.

Walawski is still without his car, without his job and facing mounting debts brought on.

“I knew it was wrong,” he said. I knew, I asked myself ‘how could this be?’ ‘How is this possible?’ Because, as a society, we're supposed to have laws that also protect us.”

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