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Vehicle Impound request of Kimberly Arzabal re impound of a 2003 Chevy Trail Blazer on 7/11/13

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-VI-026
Planning #:
Incident #:13B-27343
Filing Date:07/22/2013
City Contact:Officer Myles
Hearing Date: 08/19/2013
Description: Vehicle Impound request of Kimberly Arzabal re impound of a 2003 Chevy Trail Blazer on 7/11/13
Decision Date: 08/21/2013
Decision Summary:Granted.


2003 Chevy Trailblazer, AAA4661

13B-27343 / Vehicle Impound


Dawn Sturwold, Hearing Examiner

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 19th day of August, 2013 on the request of Kimberly Arzabal regarding the impound of her 2003 Chevy Trailblazer on July 11, 2013.
Testimony was received from Kimberly Arzabal, Requestor.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code, the following documents were considered as part of the record: Impounded Vehicle Hearing Request Form dated 7/22/13, BPD LongArm Case Report No. 13B-27343, Authorization to Tow/Impound and Inventory Record, Vehicle Inquiry from Bellingham Municipal Court dated 7/11/13, Current Ticket Listing dated 7/11/13, Dispatch Summary, Invoice from ASAP Towing No. 184999, Statement from Bellingham Municipal Court dated 6/11/13, Citation No. 13105514, Department of Licensing Certificate of Fact, and Letter from the Bellingham City Attorney dated 7/17/13.
On July 11, 2013 Bellingham Police Department Parking Control Officer Margaret Myles observed a 2003 Chevy Trail Blazer, WA license AAA4661 parked in the 1300 block of Bay Street in Bellingham. She issued a parking citation No. 13105514 to the vehicle for a violation of BMC 11.33.060A(34), expired vehicle license. The vehicle owner, Kimberly Arzabal, arrived at the vehicle's location while Officer Myles was present and contested the issuance of the citation. The officer explained that the citation had already been issued and that Ms. Arzabal would need to contact the Bellingham Municipal Court to contest the ticket. Officer Myles confirmed that the vehicle had six outstanding parking tickets and contacted ASAP Towing to impound the vehicle pursuant to BMC 11.18.020C.
Ms. Arzabal arrived at the impound yard approximately two hours after the impound and redeemed the vehicle, paying $181.00 for the tow, $100.00 for the Bellingham Police Department Administrative fee, and $23.00 for one-half day storage, together with tax of $17.75 for a total of $321.75.
Ms. Arzabal also contacted a Bellingham Police Department Lieutenant to contest the parking citation and impound. The Lieutenant requested that the citation be voided. According to a letter Ms. Arzabal received from the Bellingham City Attorney's Office the citation was voided.
Ms. Arzabal requested and received from the Washington Department of Licensing or an agent of the Department a "Certificate of Fact" which states that the tabs for the 2003 Chevy Trailblazer WA license No. AAA4661 expire on July 11, 2013. The report authored by Officer Myles does not indicate when the tabs on the vehicle expired.
Ms. Arzabal had been issued at least six parking citations within the City of Bellingham within approximately two years, and more than 45 days prior to July 11, 2013. Ms. Arzabal had arranged for a payment plan with the Bellingham Municipal Court for payment of the tickets. As of July 11, 2013 she was in arrears on the payment plan for approximately two months and had received a notice from the court that her account was subject to collection.
BMC 11.18.020C provides that when a vehicle is parked in a public right-of-way or on publicly owned property in violation of any law, ordinance or regulation and there are four or more parking infractions issued against the vehicle for each of which a person has failed to appear or respond, or failed to pay for at least 45 days after the date of filing of an adjudicated infraction, the vehicle is subject to impoundment.
Ms. Arzabal argues that she was not given any notice that her vehicle would be subject to impoundment and that she would not have driven her vehicle if she had known that due to the severe consequences that could result from impoundment, especially if she was unable to pay the towing and storage fees. Notice of the consequences of a violation of law is not required prior to enforcement actions. Everyone is charged with knowledge of the law. However, notice that impoundment could result from having four or more unpaid parking tickets certainly would be helpful to those affected by the law, and could serve to promote the purpose of the law which is to obtain compliance with the law and payment for outstanding parking tickets.
She also argues that she should not have been issued the parking citation on July 11, 2013 for expired tabs because she still had until the end of that day to renew her vehicle license. She did renew her license that day. There is no evidence in the record that the vehicle license was expired at the time the parking citation was issued and the vehicle impounded. Officer Myles' report does not indicate the date of expiration. Ms. Arzabal testified that the license expired on July 11, 2013 and she submitted a statement on a Department of Licensing form that states that the license expires on July 11, 2013. The parking citation that was issued on that date was voided.
The impound for outstanding parking citations is authorized only if the vehicle is parked on a public street or on public property in violation of a law or regulation. The evidence in this case does not support the allegation that the Chevy Trailblazer was parked in violation of a law or regulation at the time the impound was authorized. Given the evidence presented at the hearing that the vehicle's tabs would expire on the date the citation was issued and the voiding of the ticket the vehicle was not subject to impoundment pursuant to BMC 11.18.020C at the time and place of impoundment.
The impoundment was not authorized by BMC 11.18.020C and was not valid.
The impoundment of Ms. Arzabal's vehicle on July 11, 2013 was not authorized or valid. She should be reimbursed by the City of Bellingham for the amount she paid to redeem the vehicle, $321.75, plus the $73.00 hearing fee.

ENTERED this 21st day of August 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold