If I was told something by an officer that isn’t being honored, what can I do?

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If I was told something by an officer that isn’t being honored, what can I do?

My car was towed in connection with the arrest of my nephew, who was driving it at the time. I went to pick up the car the same day as the arrest but was told that my car would not be released because it was part of an investigation. The officer I spoke with told me that I would only be charged for the initial tow, not for storage fees. My sister went to check on the car and was told the same thing – no storage fees. A month later my car is being release, and I am being told that I am responsible for those fees. Since my sister and I were both told the same thing, what can be done?

Asked on April 11, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Delaware

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you probably can't do anything at all. The officer you spoke with most likely does not have the authority to waive towing fees, so he most likely did not act in an official capacity. Moreover, even if he had the authority, there was no "consideration" for an agreement--that is, from what you write, it's not that you agreed to allow your car to be held, but rather, it was going to be held anyway, no matter what. That means that you did not give up any rights upon hearing that you would not be charged towing fees. If you did not pay anything or give up any rights--provide an "consideration" as the law calls it--it is very difficult to show any sort of enforceable agreement. In this case, it seems you were going to have to pay for the storage no matter what; the fact that  you had been given false hope does not entitle you to recovery or compensation.

Now, if there are grounds to not pay for storage when a car is held against your will, that would be a different matter. You might wish to consult with a local attorney who knows police impound to evaluate the situation (you need somone to evaluate the situation in detail; the specific facts are critical)...though if the fees are not enough to make it worthwhile to consult with a lawyer, it's probably not worthwhile taking action.

You may have grounds to sue and recover from your nephew, since it's his act which lead to the car being held.


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