On May 14, 2008, two private citizens in the state of California who had their vehicles impounded under the California Vehicle Code filed this class-action lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the State of California's Business, Transportation and Housing Agency ("BTH"), the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol ("CHP"), and the City of Los Angeles. The plaintiffs alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and California law. The plaintiffs sought declaratory equitable and injunctive relief for unlawful seizures and impoundments of their vehicles.
Under California's Vehicle Code, a peace officer could "cause the removal and seizure of" a vehicle for various reasons, and the vehicle may be impounded for 30 days. Following the seizure of a vehicle, the vehicle's owner was entitled to a "storage hearing," during which any mitigating circumstances will be considered. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated various aspects of the Vehicle Code, thereby violating the plaintiffs' rights under the Constitution, the California Constitution, and California law.
The plaintiffs had four main allegations: First, the plaintiffs alleged unlawful search and seizure for the wrongful seizure and impoundment of their vehicles for driving without a license. The plaintiffs alleged that this violated their Fourth Amendment rights, and also violated the California Constitution.
Second, the plaintiffs alleged that the conditions leading up to the seizure and impoundment of the plaintiffs' vehicles did not meet the requirements of the community caretaking doctrine (in other words, it did not present a threat to public safety), and therefore violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and California law.
Third, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants violated procedural due process with misleading hearing notices and inadequacy of hearing officers, standard and procedures surrounding the "storage hearings" following the seizure and impoundment of vehicles. The plaintiffs alleged that this violated their Fifth and Fourteenth amendment rights and the their rights under the California Constitution.
Lastly, the plaintiffs alleged that defendants' policy imposing a fee on vehicles seized and impounded that exceeded the administrative costs was in violation of California's Vehicle Code, and therefore unlawful under California law. The plaintiffs further alleged that the defendants had the power to prevent the plaintiffs from recouping their property via threats, intimidation, and coercion, thereby violating their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and their rights under the California Constitution and California law.
The plaintiffs sought to certify two plaintiff classes and a defendant class. On January 1, 2012, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion to certify either class, but allowed them to proceed on their individual claims against the named defendants. 2012 WL 10972131 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2012).
Both parties moved for summary judgment. On March 4, 2013, Judge S. James Otero granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment for the federal claims and dismissed without prejudice the state law claims. Judge Otero also denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. 2013 WL 794059 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2013). Rachel June-Graber - 10/26/2015