You can still be booted in Rexburg, despite legal limbo

Rexburg

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

REXBURG – To boot or not to boot?

That has been the big question in Rexburg this month.

During a July 5 City Council meeting, Madison County Deputy Prosecutor Rob Wood said Idaho code makes booting illegal and booting companies would be charged with a misdemeanor for booting cars. However, not everyone agrees with Wood’s understanding of the law.

Now Wood tells EastIdahoNews.com that until the City Council comes to a decision, booters will not be charged for booting cars.

Idaho Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill offered his recommendations on the booting issue during the council’s meeting Wednesday.

“I would be careful about thinking in your mind, somehow, that state law requires you to prohibit booting,” the Rexburg Republican said. “That’s your decision. You own it.”

Hill, said he could “almost guarantee” the Legislature will consider an amendment to Idaho Statute 49-1806 that allows towing to also allow booting.

“If towing is permitted, then logically saying something less invasive and less expensive to the car owner would naturally be permitted,” he said.

Trent VanderSloot, representative for the owner of NorthPoint Apartments and member of the Off Campus Housing Association, said the day after the announcement was made that law enforcement would cite booters if they booted a car, NorthPoint’s parking facilities completely filled up.

“We had students who were walking out of there, looking at our managers, as they went, with grins on their faces, knowing that now we couldn’t do anything,” VanderSloot said.

Rachel Woolery, owner of Windsor Manor and member of the OCHA, said booting one or two cars at the beginning the semester usually takes care of most of the problem. But that deterrent went away after the announcement went out.

Ticketing cars is a possible solution to the problem, but Woolery said ticketing doesn’t work because apartment owners aren’t able to identify who the owner of the vehicle is.

“Let’s say we do find out who they are and we give them the option to pay now or pay later and they don’t,” she said. “Our only avenue would be small claims court. Small claims court for a $50 ticket – we’d hire a lawyer. At a minimum, they’re $300 an hour. It’s not feasible.”

“Law enforcement has an overwhelming feeling … that (booting) is not working.”

Madison County Deputy Prosecutor Rob Wood speaks to the Rexburg City Council on Wednesday. | Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com

Wood said in the last four years, law enforcement has been involved in 80 incidents involving booting. Those incidents mostly involve someone removing and taking or damaging boot that was placed on their car. He said, in 2017 alone, law enforcement has already had 20 incidents.

“We’ve been called out twice as much this year as we have in the past,” Wood said. “So, I understand for landowners this booting might work. Law enforcement has an overwhelming feeling – I can speak for law enforcement in this – that it is not working in the city for law enforcement.”

Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman said he and his department support Wood.

“Where the issue comes (is) when the person putting that boot on has no compassion or has no good judgment, as far as whether to put that boot on, or whether to remove or whether to charge someone,” Turman said.

He said there were fewer problems when apartment managers were the ones to call the booting or towing companies. He suggested hiring assistant managers to oversee the apartment’s parking facilities.

Ryan Cobar, owner of RC Booting and BYU-Idaho student, said if booting is made illegal his small business would be shut down and he would have to lay people off.

“I would really encourage you (the City Council) to bring it back or at least put a stay on this decision until you have amended something decided to keep it the way it is,” Cobar said.

Darren Helm, owner of Guardian and All American Towing told EastIdahoNews.com he has lost thousands of dollars just in the last couple weeks since the announcement went out.

The City Council tabled the matter and scheduled a work meeting for Wednesday, where it would meet with members of the OCHA to try to come to a solution.

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