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Police-caused scavenger hunts for your own car ‘should end’ after FOX 13 investigation

Posted at 10:28 PM, Aug 03, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers say a FOX 13 News investigation will lead to change after we discovered hundreds of complaints in which police departments did not fill out state-required paperwork disclosing the location of towed vehicles.

As a result, drivers could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at the end of a scavenger hunt for their own car.

Drivers like Anthony Sanchez say they woke up in the hospital after a crash without any knowledge of their vehicle’s location.

“No letters in the mail,” Sanchez said. “Who knows what their fees are now... Everybody should know where their vehicle goes.”

State law dictates the owners of towed vehicles are supposed to receive notice by mail showing the location of their vehicle, but that’s only if police officers fill out a Vehicle Impound Report, also known as a TC-540.

“I think your story is certainly going to get people’s attention,” said Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork. “The last thing (officers) want to do is erode public confidence in law enforcement... I have a lot of confidence in law enforcement, but a story like this where law enforcement is openly ignoring the law? It creates a credibility problem.”

Rep. Matthew Gwynn, R-Farr West, said he became aware of some officers’ concerns with the law shortly after it was implemented, but he added that it is not an excuse for police departments to ignore the law.
Gwynn also serves as the chief of Roy PD.

“I was actually very appreciative when I heard the story was coming out, because I had no idea this was going on behind the scenes,” Gwynn said. “It’s unfortunate that it got to the point where it had to come to you.”

The Utah State Tax Commission has identified 573 cases in which police did not fill out state-required paperwork for a police tow.

Most agencies have zero complaints, but more than half of all cases lead back to the same three police departments: West Valley City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden.

“This is so antagonistic. It is patently inappropriate. It just tarnishes those who try to do the right thing,” Gwynn said. “I’m asking police departments to follow the law.”

Gwynn said he understands police departments are understaffed, which is why he intends to update the law to reduce the burden on officers. Some of his ideas include making the paperwork easier to fill out or having tow companies fill out the paperwork in some circumstances.

“It is an easy form to fill out,” he said. “It doesn’t take that much time... but, over time, all that time adds up.”

“Is that an excuse for departments like West Valley and Salt Lake to have more than 100 complaints?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“There is no excuse for not following the law,” Gwynn said. “This should end.”

In some cases, officers said they have been advised to not fill out the paperwork because a change to the law could be coming.

Again, Gwynn said that is not an acceptable excuse. He does not want drivers to continue being victimized until lawmakers have a chance to vote on a new bill next year.

If police fail to submit the required paperwork, the Utah Department of Public Safety has set up a website to aid people in finding their vehicles based on information submitted by tow companies: tow.utah.gov.

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