Boone Town Council Passes Prohibition On Towing Occupied Vehicles, Penalty Section Modification

Published Friday, January 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

Mark S. Kenna

Jan. 24, 2014. Boone Town Council discussed and reviewed possible changes to the towing ordinance Tuesday after hearing about a recent court case taken up by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

After discussion Councilwoman Lynn Mason thanked Town Attorney Sam Furgiuele for bringing up the issue to the council.  Mason then made a motion, per Furgiuele’s recommendation, to give the town attorney the power to make modifications to the towing ordinance, which includes redrafting the penalty section; to add a prohibition to towing an occupied vehicle and to change the language of the ordinance.

“Right now our violations for the penalties are quite mild,” Furgiuele said.

Yet, the third item in the motion is dependent upon the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision of a case involving Chapel Hill and George King of George S. Towing and Recovery.

George S. Towing and Recovery challenged Chapel Hill’s authority to cap towing charges.  The company won in the North Carolina Superior Court in 2012; but it was appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, for which the court found that the city does have the authority to have its ordinance.

“Unfortunately, the North Carolina Supreme Court has now accepted that case for consideration,” Furgiuele said.  “Even though there was a unanimous court of appeals and there was not an automatic right to review—the North Carolina Supreme Court accepted the case. That may be a bad sign that the court took discretionary review.”

If the North Carolina Supreme Court goes with the North Carolina Superior Court ruling, it can potentially reduce Boone’s municipal authority in a profound way, Furgiuele added.  

Furgiuele also compared the total amounts other cities in North Carolina can charge total for towing.  He cited Raleigh at $100, Durham at $120 and Chapel Hill at $125. In Boone, the most an individual can be charged for a non-consensual tow can be up to $100.

Before Mason made the motion, Furgiuele talked about the issues of towing in regards of procedure and price. Furgiuele cited an incident where a local towing company tow truck blocked-in an occupied vehicle.

The towing operator hooked up the car to tow it and then demanded that the driver pay one fourth of the non-consensual towing charge [$25], Furgiuele said.

After meeting with the district attorney’s office, Furgiuele discussed the possible issue of towing and charging an individual in an occupied vehicle.

Over the past few years, the town has moved away from towing to focusing on booting, Furgiuele added.

Rennie Brantz Mayor Pro-Tem agreed that towing was an issue, adding that he felt it was time to act.      

Andy Ball Mayor asked if the decision of the North Carolina Supreme Court case will be released within the next six months.

Furgiuele responded that the case will not be decided for a year, adding that it would not be wise to change certain elements of the ordinance, like having a cap on how much tow companies can charge, because the potential decision of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

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