New law proposed to allow police to tow and impound vehicle for driving without insurance

by Sami Azhari on March 17, 2013

Towed for No Insurance Law

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives will vote soon on a bill that allows police officers to tow and impound vehicles for driving without proof of insurance.

Proposed by Representative Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, the bill would amend 625 ILCS 5/4-203. This is the statute that authorizes law enforcement to tow and impound vehicles abandoned on highways.

Through this statute and other provisions of the vehicle code, police officers are authorized to tow and impound vehicles that are used in the commission of certain offenses:

  • Driving under the influence in violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-501. See 625 ILCS 5/4-205(e)(allowing for towing and impoundment after arrest for DUI, which is known as a “DUI Hold”). Note that an arrest for DUI in Chicago results in a DUI hold with a minimum penalty of $2,000 under 7-24-226 of the Municipal Code of Chicago. This is probably the highest in the state. It is not a defense that the owner, who has to pay the penalty, was not the person who committed the DUI. People have appealed this issue and lost. See Jackson v. City of Chicago.
  • Driving while license suspended or revoked (625 ILCS 5/6-303(a)). See 625 ILCS 5/6-303(e)(requiring towing and impoundment after an arrest for DWLS).

The proposed legislation would add an additional offense, driving without insurance (625 ILCS 5/3-707), to the list which allow for towing and impoundment.

Through a law called Home Rule, municipalities can enact vehicle code ordinances that are Class A misdemeanors. Many villages and cities do so in order to collect the revenue from the offense. To date, I am not aware of any Home Rule unit that allows towing and impound solely on the basis of driving without insurance. Usually the police are required to ticket the driver for another offense like DUI or DWLS. This provision would apply statewide and supercede any local rule.

Every driver in Illinois has to have a liability insurance policy (625 ILCS 5/7-601) with minimum coverage of $20,000 per person per accident. See 625 ILCS 5/7-203. It is estimated that up to 15% of drivers don’t have insurance in Illinois.

Operating a motor vehicle without proof of insurance is a business offense punishable by a minimum $500 fine on the first conviction and $1,000 fine on the second. See 625 ILCS 5/3-707(c). But if the driver is in an accident causing bodily harm to another, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor with a potential penalty of up to one year in jail. See 625 ILCS 5/3-707(a-5).

A conviction for driving without insurance results in a minimum 3-month suspension of driving privileges by the Secretary of State. See 625 ILCS 5/3-707(c-1).

Before the bill passed committee review, it was amended so that the driver would have his vehicle towed only he had a prior conviction for no insurance in the last year.

This bill is likely to pass the House and Senate, and get signed into law by the Governor. And considering the dire finances of many police departments, the administrative impounds will probably occur regularly.

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