Joseph Safuto, a person experiencing homelessness, sued the City of Los Angeles, challenging the city's practice of towing vehicles as a mechanism for collecting debt — in this case two unpaid parking tickets that resulted in a lapsed registration.
At the time of the tow, Safuto was enrolled in the Community Assistance Parking Program, which allows people experiencing homelessness to pay off outstanding parking tickets by performing community service. Safuto informed the officer who towed his vehicle that he had submitted necessary proof and fees to register his car, and that he was participating in the Community Assistance Parking Program, but the officer had the car towed anyway.
Safuto later presented this information at an administrative hearing, where he contested the tow, but the administrative officer only considered that the car had not been registered at the time of the tow. Because Safuto was unable to pay the fees associated with the tow — including a $115 City of Los Angeles "vehicle release fee," a $41.50 daily storage fee, and a $70 lien processing fee — the towing company sold his car at lien sale. Despite the fact that the car was sold, Safuto was charged $1004.50 to cover the lien and he still had to do the community service to work off the parking ticket debt.
The lawsuit challenges the city's practice of towing vehicles without a public safety justification solely because of lapsed registration, and it challenges the way the city conducts towing hearings.