Question: When is it okay for authorities to have your car towed even after you've paid all your parking tickets.
Answer: Pretty much any day in L.A. (Yay).
It actually happened last week to Angeleno Chris Fitts, who told the Weekly he paid off all his parking tickets 20 days prior as part of his vehicle registration process at the DMV. Problem was ...
... it appeared the DMV did not report the payment. And that's not unusual, an L.A. Department of Transportation official told us.
So when the parking police went cruising down Fitts' Brentwood street in search of scofflaw, his 2008 Toyota Highlander SUV beamed like El Dorado in the sun.
The local Official Police Garage towing outfit, Quick Silver Towing, hooked it up and off it went.
After walking to the tow yard to grab his registration, walking to the West L.A. parking bureau to get a release form, and then cabbing it back to the tow company, Fitts paid $270, including cash for one day's storage, to get his car out of hock.
The 33-year-old freelance television producer says he was told by Quick Silver that he's not due a refund because the DMV's fine print states that drivers are responsible for taking receipts from paying their tickets to the agency that issued the tickets to make sure they're cleared manually.
The L.A. DOT, however, says there is good news: He can apply for a refund. While there's not much they could have done to prevent the tow (if Fitts had been there and shown parking enforcement documentation they would have left the car alone), Fitts is ultimately in the right.
When you pay off parking tickets at the DMV, "the DMV collects a little bit of money and forwards the funds to the city," says DOT spokesman Bruce Gilman. "You can get caught in between those things."
"It wasn't in our database because the DMV lagged in their time telling us," Gilman said. "The database is only as good as what they put in it and we do access that. Our own system is immediate."
It appears that the DMV doesn't update its computer database in real time. In this day and age, that's downright retarded.
A DMV spokesman denied that its records weren't updated in real time, though. He told the Weekly this was the first he had heard of such a case. Really?
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We understand that if Fitts gets his cash back, the Official Police Garage will be out about half of its tow fee, even though all it did was take a car at the behest of the city.
"It's really frustrating," he says. "I play by the rules. Something like this is above and beyond them showing absolutely no respect for citizens. Aside from the cost of the tow I also lost a full day of work trying to deal with this."
Of course, there's one surefire way to prevent such a hassle: Don't wait until your car registration is due to pay for your parking tickets.
"As long as you pay where and when you supposed to," Gilman says, "you won't encounter this problem."