Seattle To Begin booting Cars This Week
Beginning this week, scofflaw vehicles – those with four or more overdue, unpaid parking tickets – found in public right-of-way may get the boot, a wheel-locking device, whether they are parked illegally or legally in the City of Seattle.
The city plans a slow start to the program, booting only a limited number of vehicles in the first week. Once the program is in full swing, the city anticipates it can boot approximately 40 to 50 vehicles a day.
In order to avoid having their car booted and to save money, motorists are urged to take advantage of the Seattle Municipal Court’s “collection reduction event,” which waives all collections fees and interest on parking and traffic infractions if tickets are paid in full before a car gets the boot.
The event, originally scheduled for May and June, has been extended through July 15, 2011. People are taking advantage of this opportunity – 2,100 people have left the parking scofflaw list since the first notices went out in May. Officials attribute this primarily to a combination of payments and vehicles that were sold.
“It is important to remind everyone that they should respond to their parking tickets within 15 days. They can do so by paying the tickets, requesting a hearing, asking to be set up on a time payment plan, or checking with the court to see if they are eligible for community service,” Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Fred Bonner said. “If someone has not responded in the past and has delinquent parking tickets with our collection agency, now is the time to pay them off at a lower rate and avoid having their car booted.”
Once a vehicle has been booted, all unpaid scofflaw-eligible parking tickets, collection fees and interest owed on tickets associated with that vehicle, as well as the $145 boot fee, must be paid to get the vehicle released. After the payment has been made, or time payment entered into, the vehicle will be removed from the scofflaw list. The boot fee paid to the city’s boot vendor, PayLock, covers the vendor’s charge for use of its boot devices and customer services.
If all unpaid parking tickets and associated fees are not paid within 48 hours, excluding weekends, then the booted vehicle may be towed and impounded.
After impounding, if the scofflaw-eligible parking tickets and associated fees (including tow and boot fees) are not paid in full or a time payment plan is not established with AllianceOne, the Municipal Court’s collection agency, within 15 days, then the vehicle may be auctioned. Time payment plans do not cover tow and impound fees; those must be paid in full to release the vehicle.
Seattle officials, who have been doing outreach about the program since April, have worked with homeless advocates to develop a protocol to mitigate the impact of the parking scofflaw program on families with children and vulnerable individuals living in vehicles. (A vulnerable individual is a person who is at great risk of harm due to a disability or medical condition.) The number of individuals in this situation is expected to be low – based on an informal survey, city officials estimate roughly 90 percent of people living in their cars either have no parking tickets or are below the parking scofflaw threshold of four delinquent parking tickets.
The Seattle Human Services Department already has a policy to provide outreach services when the department is notified of families with children or vulnerable individuals who are homeless.
Given the new law and the risk of having vehicles towed, Seattle will implement a concentrated 12-month program to reach families and vulnerable individuals who may lose their vehicles to ensure they are aware of the options available to them and the actions necessary for them to be removed from the parking scofflaw list.
The parking scofflaw booting program is expected to increase parking availability, increase parking payment compliance, and reduce the amount of money owed to the city for delinquent parking fines.
SPD parking enforcement officers (PEOs) will patrol city streets with two license plate recognition technology equipped vehicles. When a scofflaw vehicle is identified, PEOs will apply a notice to the vehicle (which includes boot-removal information), and lock the vehicle’s wheel with a boot.
Motorists have three payment options if their vehicles have been booted: Pay via telephone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week; Pay in person with cash, money order or cashier’s check at Seattle Municipal Court, the King County Jail, or the municipal or district courts of Tukwila, Marysville, Kitsap County, and Clark County; or by entering into a time payment agreement with AllianceOne. The collection agency may set up a time-payment plan with a minimum down payment of $200 or 10 percent of the amount owed, whichever is greater.
Motorists are responsible for returning the boots, which should be placed in the vehicle’s trunk for safety purposes. If motorists do not return the boot within two calendar days of release, a fine of $25 per day can be levied. If motorists damage or fail to return a boot, a replacement fee of up to $500 can be levied. Motorists who anticipate a delay in returning the boot are urged to contact PayLock via the phone number provided on the boot notice as soon as possible.
As of June 29, 2011, more than 20,000 vehicles are listed as eligible for booting. Registered owners of these vehicles are notified by mail of their status. While some of the license plates on the list are inactive, vehicles with four or more overdue, unpaid tickets that have since been sold to a new owner will not be on the list, provided the new owner has noted the sale with the Washington State Department of Licensing, as required by state law. The number of vehicles on the city’s scofflaw list is always changing as parking tickets are regularly issued or paid in full. Notices are automatically mailed to vehicle owners as their vehicles appear on the scofflaw list.