SAN JOSE, CA – Two Latino residents are suing King City officials and a local towing company for illegally seizing their vehicle without a warrant and then demanding exorbitant fees to recover the cars.
The lawsuit, filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) on behalf of Rufina Recendiz Garcia and Eladio Huitzil, also challenges the city’s failure to provide Spanish-language information that would have allowed the couple to contest the unlawful impound of their truck.
“MALDEF brought this action on behalf of Rufina Recendiz Garcia and Eladio Huitzil because King City groundlessly deprived them of their vehicle without a warrant and in violation of the United States Constitution,” said Miranda Galindo, a staff attorney with MALDEF.
The lawsuit alleges the police department’s policy is unconstitutional because it results in the warrantless impounding of a car, in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
“Everyone — including those who are immigrants, non-English-speaking, or with limited financial assets – has the same property rights under our Constitution and laws,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “The defendants here violated the property rights of plaintiffs and should be held accountable.”
In October 2015, Recendiz Garcia’s son was pulled over while driving his mother’s truck. Police cited him for driving without a license and immediately had Leyva’s Towing, Inc. impound the vehicle despite a request that police call Recendiz Garcia to take possession of the truck.
When Recendiz Garcia sought information from police on the release of the truck, she was only given information in English and was never meaningfully informed of her right to contest the seizure at a hearing.
The couple has had their vehicles illegally seized on at least two other previous occasions, according to the complaint.
In 2013, the couple’s Camry was towed while legally parked in front of the couple’s home because it had expired tags. That same year, their 2004 Pontiac was also seized and towed.
Find the complaint here.