Sunday, August 12, 2012

Georgia Law Apparently Does Not Permit the Booting of Cars On Private Property

    You may wonder why car booting is in this blog.  Well, the Georgia Code section that deals with alleged trespassing of cars on private property is in the real property section of the Code, OCGA 44-1-13. That Code Section allows the towing of trespassing vehicles on private property.  What it DOES NOT do is allow the booting or immobilization of vehicles on private property in the State of Georgia.  In other words, it appears to be illegal to boot cars in Georgia on private property.  How do I know this even moreso?  Because in 201l Representatives Heckstall and Fludd (Whoever they are, feel free to vote them out of office) introduced bill HB 490 into the General Assembly to amend OCGA 44-1-13 to allow the booting of cars on private property in the State of Georgia.  The law has not been passed, and therefore in my opinion it is illegal to do so in Georgia. Obviously, the General Assembly, or at least Heckstall and Fludd, felt that it was necessary to amend OCGA 44-1-13 so that it would be legal, so it appears obvious that as the statute stands, it is illegal.  Yet it goes on all over the place.

     In its infinite wisdom, the Atlanta City Code purports to regulate "vehicle immobilization" in the City of Atlanta and vehicle booting companies.  It has requirements regarding signs, booting companies, etc.  When I read this I thought, where is the enabling legislation to give this authority to the City of Atlanta?  The City Code does not say when a car may be booted on private property, or put another way, what constitutes a violation permitting a boot.  I searched the Georgia Code and came up empty.  All I could find was OCGA 44-1-13 and the failed attempt to amend it to allow booting on private property.  So unless I am missing something (I am by no means an expert in state and municipality jurisdictional relations, but I did pass the Georgia Bar) vehicle operators in the city of Atlanta are being scammed by parking lot owners and the vehicle immobilization business.  If anyone reads this and can explain how I am wrong I would be happy to apologize and take down this post.  Until then, readers, knock yourselves out fighting City Hall, and raising as much ruckus as you can to fight this. If you do get booted,  I recommend paying with a credit card, not cash, and disputing the charge as soon as possible.  That is what I did.  If you get towed you are probably out of luck but the statute seems incredibly vague as to what and when an actual customer in a shopping center, who was an invitee, becomes a trespasser for leaving the car parked in the lot.  I haven't researched the case law on that important point but I invite anyone to look into it and comment.

    Recently your faithful blogger had the pleasant experience of parking in a parking lot at a small shopping center with a Starbucks in it, buying coffee, walking outside and around the block to make a private phone call, chatting with a friend, and returning to find a boot on my car and a rude, gleeful worker for the booting company sitting in the car, ready to ambush anyone who so much as stepped foot out of the parking lot for a second to put a clamp on their car.  I had walked right by the guy when I went off.  He could have easily had the decency to alert me that walking out of the lot was considered grounds for his services but there's no money in that, right? He pointed out a sign that was on the property warning that the lot was for "current customers" only and that cars could get booted.  But I didn't walk past it and could not read it unless I went well out of my way to go see what it said. Besides, I WAS a current customer who happened to have to make a call outside the shop. I even wanted a refill darn it.  And the lot was not very busy, it might have had 20% of its spaces filled. This man lurking in the lot and booting cars said they had a policy of immediately booting when someone walks off the property. That makes no sense and is patently unreasonable.  I can understand that a shopping center owner wants to protect spaces for shoppers that come by, but the lot was almost empty and the fellow was sitting right on sight.  At least a tow truck would be visible.  Obviously this is a scam to hide in a car with a trunk full of boots and trap unsuspecting actual customers of the shopping center the minute they are out of sight.  The man booting the cars was a complete jerk and was incredibly rude to my wife, which in my experience is a really bad idea, and boorish. 

    Moreover, I can see how this could be a public safety issue actually harming the public, because  people who park in parking lots may become intoxicated and leave their cars overnight because they are too impaired to drive, whether they are towed or not (I have gotten complaints about this, people say "they may as well drive drunk and take the risk", not a good idea, of course, but drunk people have a lot of bad ideas, and it is legal to get drunk).  It seems like getting booted would be a disincentive to refrain from drinking and driving if you feared that your car would be booted or towed.  It is one thing to park illegally, but it is another to be punished for the good deed of not driving and endangering the public.  Is the profit of keeping spaces open and keepijng booting services profitable greater than keeping dangerous drivers off the road?  Luckily I am a caffeine man these days myself, but I was so enraged at this I thought I might have a heart attack in the parking lot myself (I guess caffeine isn't so great either).  Furthermore, these people have cameras on their dashboard as well, and they admit that they tape "video interactions" with their victims.  That is a great invasion of privacy we should all be proud of in America.   

   Finally, the Georgia Home Rule Act delegates specific powers for municipalities to pass laws in certain areas.  However, the Georgia Assembly has expressly limited the ability for local governments to regulate in certain areas, and one of the limits is contained in OCGA 36-35-6(b). It says local government shall not have "The power granted in subsections (a) and (b) of Code Section 36-35-3 (the Home Rule authority) shall not include the power to take any action affecting the private or civil law governing private or civil relationships, except as is incident to the exercise of an independent governmental power." So regulating a private car on a private lot is for the state to make the laws, not the cities.  And the state has chosen to allow towing under certain circumstance and chose not to allow vehicle immobilization, ie, booting. 

   The municipalites would probably argue that their police power to provide "safety" is their excuse, but that seems lame in the face of the danger of motivating drunk drivers to drive after hours.  And what evidence is there that the public safety warrants the obvious trespasses to private property (a car is private personal property) caused by these scammers?  Perhaps on occasion booting might be needed, such as during a festival or a Falcons game, etc.  But that should be the exception, not the rule.  The property owners should have to petition to get the right to boot, and these scamming boot companies should not have free license to make money by hiding in plain sight booting anything they can get their hands on.  If the city actually did its job and regulated the booting companies it licenses it might work but they obviously do not do that.  Since I originally posted this I have been inundated with positive comments from irate folks who got scammed by the booters in outrageous incidents.  These booting companies are basically like the road "checkpoints" you read about in failed states (Afghanistan comes to mind) where you basically have to pay a bribe to somebody to drive up and down the road.  No wonder this city is covered with parking lots instead of parks or public decks maintained by the City. 

    By the way the address was on Moreland Avenue in Little Five Points and the parking company can be found on the internet with several complaints from folks who feel like they were ripped off.  I haven't figured out who the landlord is but I certainly will.  If I were Starbucks I would be none too pleased about how their landlord, its property manager, and this parking company treat their customers.  I should own stock in the Starbucks company I buy so much of their stuff.  Maybe this company has an Atlanta permit but they do not have the amendment to OCGA 44-1-13 effectuated to allow them to boot on private property.  State law trumps municipal law.  I am actually mulling over the merit of filing a class action lawsuit against these scavenger companies and trying to put them out of business.  I wouldn't mind finding out who they work with and adding their private customers to the list of defendants as well.  If I am right about the illegality of this private property booting then the class action seems totally certifiable ( a "class" lawsuit has to be ceritified by the judge based on the similarity of all the claims), because all the victims are substantially similar no matter what their story is and the circumstances.  Maybe they should have gotten towed but not snowed.     

Perhaps I am a little obsessive to get this mad over a $50 boot on my car. But it is that obsession that helps me fight 110 per cent for my clients and to right as many wrongs as possible before I kick the bucket.  

15 comments:

  1. Yes David, I'm a fellow Yale alum too. It was at the shopping center with a Starbucks at the entrance, on Piedmont, and I was inside the Starbucks meeting with another Yale alum, so I was parked legally. The guy claimed I walked off the property, basically lying to fill his quota, and I had to haggle with him, eventually getting off. At the time I had NY plates, maybe that was the reason.

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  2. I visited a E. Atlanta, GA Tech student dive, for beer, wings and a game of pool. I have been visiting for two years, and park in the same well lighted parking lot on the corner ( a gym of some sorts that is closed at night)and was even parked there two weeks prior. This time there was signage, I never noticed, and I was booted. How can I be deprived of my 35,000 dollar car I hold title to, and with no way home be stranded, or detained in a way ( its not safe to walk home from their)by this thug who booted my car. I called the police and even stated that the property laws do not allow for this activity on private property, they said it did. So I gave the thug my credit card and he ran it. Then he wanted me so sign all these forms to release my car. I told him Id only sign the credit card form that he had already taken my money and I wanted to leave. He refused, so I called the police and 45 minutes later told them this thug had detained me in violation of my civil liberties even after I satisfied the Levy He claimed to have against me. 25 minutes later they made him take the boots off. keepguesng@gmail Im ready to draft my suit under RICO, and Due Process of law, any other advice?

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  3. I am from Calhoun, Ga. I too was in this situation Sept.8 near Lenox Mall in Buckhead. Did some shopping for a couple of hours. I arrived back at my truck with non-consensual boot and a wee little man was there also, in less than 30 seconds. Payed the ransom on my new Ram truck, went home and began to do some research. The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection states in reference to 44-1-13: Please note that this Georgia law does not cover booting, non-consensual immobilization of an automobile, or consensual towing; nor does it cover towing from government property or towing within a municipality. I can only imagine how much these gypsies are raking in. Unregulated and without any amendments to legalize the practice. You are right, $75 dollars is not a life changing sum of money, but I am cancelling the charge anyway, and I will go from there. I hope a class action suit against these crooks is in the future. Sadly, thanks to the gypsy booters, that will be the last credit card swipe I ever make in Buckhead. Proof that they are adversely affecting the local economy.

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  4. Yesterday, I became a victim of car booting at the "Disco Kroger" parking lot at 3330 Piedmond Rd in Buckhead, Atlanta. The official mall name is Piedmond Peachtree Crossing. That parking lot is controlled by EPS, that works for Equity One, Inc, the real state company that owns the mall.
    EPS will place a yellow tire lock on your tire if you leave the parking lot for 5 minutes, EVEN IF YOU ARE A CUSTOMER AT THE MALL AND CAN PRESENT A RECEIPT AS PROOF OF PURCHASE.
    I had my car booted there yesterday. I went to drop off an envelope in the building across the street and came back to the mall to eat at "Piu Bello Pizzeria Restaurant". It did not take me more than 5 min. to go, drop off the envelope and come back. Lunch took 30 minutes. When I left the pizzeria, I found my car booted with an "immobilization notice" on my window that said: "75$ per day - Visa, MC, Cash. We accept credit cards 24 hours a day. Please have payment ready when technician arrives". The notice was signed by "technician 102" and provided a phone number to call (404) 484.8446.
    I called the number and explained that I WAS A CUSTOMER AND HAD A RECEIPT. The "technician" was quite rude and demanded payment to remove the boot. I called 911 to report the incident. A police car came but the officer told me he could not do anything about it. Then I called the EPS office at the number provided and was told to pay the fine. After that I went to the pizzeria and asked the business responsible to call EPS. I reminded the business responsible that my husband is a regular corporate customer of his restaurant...The guy finally called EPS and the technician 102 removed the boot.
    The ordeal took 2 hours of my time. That afternoon, I called Cymona Casey, Equity One Inc property manager responsible for the Piedmond Peachtree Crossing Mall (or "Disco Kroger") to file a complaint. I told her that I could not believe that CUSTOMERS ARE TREATED THAT WAY IN THAT DISCO KROGER MALL. As of today, I have not received any written apology neither from Equity One, Inc or EPS.
    Equity One Inc is a large real state company based in North Miami Beach, FL and quoted in the stock market. I wonder if his CEO Jeffrey S. Olson knows what is going on in his company's shopping centers. Is Equity One Inc profiting from this scam?
    To be honest, it was a horrifying experience. I am definitely going to think it twice before going to that mall to spend my $$$$. I hate being scared by gorillas looking for money...

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  5. I visted a Starbucks coffee house (187 Peachtree NE) and the same thing happened to me. My husband, daughter and I parked and got out of the car. We parked behind the building and walked down a sidewalk and relized we were on the wrong side of the building, the front door was on the other side. We entered the Starbucks from the front, got a coffee and left. There was a boot on our car. I called the number on the orange EPS card and the man said he had me on video leaving the property. I was furious. I went into Starbucks and demanded my reciept to show the vulture. The lady at the register said that the landlord hires them to work the parking lots. I was so outraged, I didn't do anything wrong. I stopped every car in the parking lot explaining what had happened, 2 of the 5 cars left. They had been scammed before and didn't want to be a part of it. I called 911 and had an Atlanta Officer on site, I explained what happened and within 45 minutes the boot was off with NO fine paid. I'm glad to see your post. I'm a coffee junky and like Starbuck's but I will not go out of my way to ever visit another one. McDonalds has coffee for a dollar, I'll go there until I get a boot from them. Please end this scam!

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  6. I had the same issue a few days ago at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont. Even though I was a customer of the local Caribou Coffee, apparently it was illegal to walk across the street even for a minute. Unfortunately, I did walk across the street to buy a homeless guy a Subway sandwich. To make matters worse, when I called the cops, the office was extremely disrespectful and arrogant. When I called the manager of the parking company, he started threatening me to tow my car if I did not pay. When I told him that I was going to call the cops, he laughed as if he knew the cops were going to be on his side. I had to pay $75 to a company called Secure Parking Enforcement LLC (Owner: Marsh, Zach Location: 202 North Colonial Homes Cir. Atlanta GA 30309). I cant believe these people have a green light from Atlanta police to do what they want and treat everyone with disrespect and insult. To be honest, I couldn't tell you which one was more disrespectful, the police office, or the guy who booted my vehicle.
    Thank you for your article David. It seems to me that all of these parking enforcing so called "company's" are taking advantage of a gray area in the law and the state politicians are doing nothing about it!

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  7. David,

    This exact same thing happened to me the other weekend and now I am struggling to get a refund from the booting company even with a receipt to show proof of purchase. What can we done and did you ever file that class action law suit? I would not mind putting advanced booting out of business.

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  8. I like this post short but meaningful and helpful,thanks for sharing and i'm looking forward to you next post.
    Jeffrey T. Angley

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  9. The same thing just happened to meet in the "private" parking garage at the intersection of Ivan Allen Jr and spring street, in the parking deck adjacent to mellow mushroom. A friend and I had dinner at mellow mushroom, and decided to walk to the end of the street to admire a downtown skyscraper. After returning to the car minutes later there was a boot and immobilization sticker on the car saying that a $75 boot fee was required to have boot removed. I immediately called the number to the booting company (CPS) located on 3330 Cumberland Blvd. The technician was immediately rude and so I decided to get police involved. Police arrived and immediately gave me the textbook line that he could not regulate this matter, as it is civil. After waiting an hour an a half, the technician arrives where I show him my reciept from having eaten at Mellow Mushroom, and that I had just left there. I also showed him where I was parked in a spot that stated for retail parking only for certain establishments, mellow mushroom being one of them, and that it is a paid parking lot, so I was going to have to pay to park there anyway. The sign also stated that parking was allowed from 10a.m until midnight, and my car was towed before 10:30. The police was helpless, and the extortion tactics of this company were successful. Needless to say I will be talking to building management tomorrow, as well as mellow mushroom, and even get Fox 5 news. I plan to take this as far as possible, and make as much noise as possible. From reading this post, it seems like this scam is prevalent in the city of Atlanta, but today they extorted the wrong individual.

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  11. I was a previous employee at a scummy and scammy booting company. I would love to start a civil lawsuit against any booting company in Atlanta.

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  12. Hi there! this is a very helpful information to those who are into commercial real estate. Looking forward to hear another thing like this in the future. It is the goal of our firm to service the requirements of a wide spectrum of the community in which we operate. This is why members of our firm routinely serve on boards and local civic organizations, from Chambers to Non-profits to real estate specific boards. Having been a trademark in the community for 40 years, the team looks forward to an extraordinary future.
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  13. I was booted today at the metro PCS on Delk road. I parked in an area that had very few cars and no signs listing warnings of parking or towing issues. Their are two adjoined but separate parking lots and two separate buildings. There are signs all over the lot warning of parking fines for abandon vehicles approaching $250 for a semi. After paying the lot attendant who was stocking my vehicle, he drove off and I started looking around the lot to discover a ton of abandon vehicles including a nonfunctional semi all setting around with no boots or anyone targeting them. Most of the dilapidated vehicles were parked only a few feet from mine, all had bald tires and were marginally operable. I didn't call the police because he didn't give me time to think about the situation. It looks like Atlanta and now Marietta is turning into a septic pool of illegal operators and low class business owners looking for someone with a nice car that has Monday to pay a fine and wouldn't complain. Moral of the story quit going out and work from home using your telephone and charm. Quit spending money on gas and only sell from home where you should be making your living anyway.

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  14. David, I am disputing the $75 charge for the same situation. But only after I ranted on social media and received public support therein, they called me. They accepted to reimburse me but wanted me to sign a liability release accepting that I am at fault and that I they can incur legal action against me if I publicly expose this matter, which I already did. I change the document accordingly and they had one of their bullies call to make me sign if I want my money back. What can I tell him to reimburse me?

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  15. Great post. Having read these types of blogs for several years now, I thought I had heard it all. I know you supervised the entire project- behind every good project is an even more fabulous helper. :) Yay for lovely home improvements!!


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