Booting cars is against Idaho law, deputy prosecutor tells Rexburg council

Rexburg

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A car is booted in Rexburg. | Photos by Brandon Griffin, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — Until recently Rexburg police have issued misdemeanors to those who remove a boot from their vehicle. Now police will have to issue the misdemeanor to companies that do the booting, the Standard Journal reports.

At the Rexburg City Council meeting on July 5, Madison County Deputy Prosecutor Rob Wood gave a presentation regarding the city’s policy on booting vehicles.

Booting is the practice of placing a restraint around the tire of a parked vehicle, preventing the owner from driving anywhere. Wood says it’s also against the law.

During the presentation, Wood said that booting vehicles is explicitly illegal by Idaho state code 49-229 and that doing so is a violation of property rights.

The exact wording of the code is as follows: “Any person who shall individually, or in association with one or more others, willfully break, injure, tamper with or remove any part or parts of any vehicle for the purpose of injuring, defacing or destroying the vehicle, or temporarily or permanently preventing its useful operation, or for any purpose against the will or without the consent of the owner of the vehicle, or who shall in any other manner willfully or maliciously interfere with or prevent the running or operation of the vehicle shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Wood said the code, dating back to 2008, prohibits anyone from knowingly interfering with the operation of a vehicle, including its ability to be driven, and says that anyone who does will be cited for a misdemeanor.

“There is no exception in the statute for unauthorized parking,” he said, though he added that towing unauthorized vehicles was legal.

He said that booting itself doesn’t solve the problem of a vehicle parked in an unauthorized location, calling it “purely punitive.”

“Demanding payment for the removal of the boot is possibly attempted theft by extortion.”

Wood also told the council of how booting has historically led to criminal behavior. His presentation detailed examples of petty theft, malicious injury to property and even an ongoing case of a felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The presentation also showed that in the past four years there were more than 80 police-involved incidents regarding booting. In 2017 alone 20 of these incidents have already occurred.

Wood said that booting has proved to be inconsistent with community values, encouraging practices that are “coercive, predatory, removes land owners and managers from being involved with their own conflicts, and extortive.”

He advocated changing Rexburg Ordinance 911, which allows the practice of booting.

“It’s our opinion that any references in ordinance 911 to booting are null and void. They’re not enforceable,” he said. “Because this is an illegal activity, demanding payment for the removal of the boot is possibly attempted theft by extortion.”

He explained that booting “allows a private citizen to seize another citizen’s private property without a warrant or order from the court,” and that doing so is “unconstitutional.”

Wood said that the city’s prosecuting attorney’s office will soon be sending out letters to all local companies who boot to “cease and desist from booting” by July 21.

“After which we will begin charging them for booting as a misdemeanor,” he said, adding that any individual involved in the booting, including the apartment owner, “is technically criminally liable of the misdemeanor.”

Wood told the Rexburg City Council that police used to be asked to facilitate a booting company’s removal of a boot from an owner’s vehicle, but that will no longer be the case since law enforcement does not facilitate acts that violate state law.

“If anyone does place a boot, law enforcement will remove it,” he said. “We will no longer be charging individuals who remove a boot with petty theft or malicious injury to property. They do have a right to their property, even if they are unauthorized to park there.”

Wood said that landowners have a right to exclude people from their property, but booting is a manner of dealing with it that is not allowed.

He recommended amending ordinance 911 to eliminate all references to parking enforcement relating to booting and add language that makes the city ordinance in line with the state code.

‘You can’t take an act that’s illegal and make it legal,” he said.

Darren Helm, owner of Guardian and All-American Towing, said that eliminating booting wouldn’t fix anything.

“If we can’t boot, we’ll tow,” he said, “There’s still a parking issue in Rexburg. It’ll cost more, and it’ll be more inconvenient. This wouldn’t be a problem in the first place if people didn’t park where they shouldn’t.”

Council member Chris Mann said he condemned predatory booting but that he was concerned that eliminating the practice would lead to predatory towing.

“I don’t think it we’ve eliminated the problem unless we get the apartment complexes to sign off on the cars being towed,” he said.

The City Council decided to hold off on a further discussion of the issue until all members would be present, since two members were absent that meeting.

This article first appeared in the Upper Valley Standard Journal. It is used here with permission.

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