Judge orders SF to return impounded car to homeless man

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the city of San Francisco to return a towed car to a homeless man who couldn’t afford to pay the parking tickets he received while working as a food delivery driver.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said Sean Kayode had raised “serious questions” about whether the March 5 towing of his car because of unpaid parking tickets violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

White wrote that in a situation in which a car owner can’t afford to pay overdue parking tickets, “it is not clear…that seizure is reasonable in an effort to secure repayment of the debt owed.”…

“We hope this opinion will induce the city to reconsider its towing policy and work with us to develop one that is constitutional and does not punish people for being poor,” said Eliza Della-Piana, legal director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil rights… (more)

Lose your car over a parking ticket? San Francisco scrutinizes harsh punishments

…Around 4,000 cars get sold off in San Francisco every year because their owners can’t pay. Rowe herself knows two other people who have lost their cars because of parking tickets. I spoke with one man who was living in his car while he worked a retail job. After his car got towed, he not only lost the place he slept every night, but he also lost his job. His car was eventually sold off by the towing company…

Financial Justice Project

To many in city government, these punishments are too severe–among them are San Francisco’s treasurer. So the city established a program called the Financial Justice Project to look for ways to make smaller fines more fair to poorer residents…

Ferguson is a city of 20,000 people; in 2013 there were 30,000 citations in a single year. After that report on Ferguson, San Francisco City Treasurer José Cisneros wanted to start tackling the problem locally. He started the Financial Justice Project in the fall of 2016…

Basing fines on a person’s income

Income-based fines are already common in parts of Europe, and was attempted in the U.S. thirty years ago. Judith Greene, who created those programs in New York City and Phoenix, AZ says they worked well. “More people paid in full and the court system actually ended up collecting more money.”…

San Francisco is in a good position to tackle this: it’s a well-off city with a lot of economic inequality. But Stuhldreher worries that other municipalities might not have the same momentum…