‘Poverty Tow’ Legislation Moves on to CA Assembly Appropriations Committee

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Assemblymember Ash Kalra

By Jariah Moore

SACRAMENTO, CA – California state legislation to end so-called “poverty tows” this week advanced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, according to the office of Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose).

The measure, AB 1082, will “eliminate the authority to tow or immobilize a vehicle for five or more unpaid parking citations.”

Additionally, the number of tickets on a vehicle before it is unable to be registered has been increased from one to six to better accommodate low-income Californians. 

AB 1082 is sponsored by End Poverty in California, FreeFrom, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Western Center on Law and Poverty,” the office writes.

President of End Poverty in California Devon Gray said, “We’ve heard story after story from people across the state how a vehicle tow can lead to loss of mobility, loss of employment, and debt sometimes hundreds of times higher than the cost of the initial fine.”

He adds, “AB 1082 reimagines a set of practices that, in their current form, push people further into poverty, giving California the opportunity to design a more equitable and just way of collecting fines from parking tickets.”

Kalra’s office wrote in a statement the purpose of poverty tows is to collect debt, but in many cases, municipalities lose money because of the tow costs, and “because towing companies still need to be paid even when the city recovers nothing.”

The office said this problem is made worse for those in poverty because municipalities add “late fees, refer the debts to collection agencies, and the threat and use of involuntary collection tools such as civil judgments, wage garnishments, bank levies, and intercepting tax refunds.”

Zal K. Schroff, Senior Staff Attorney of Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights San Francisco, weighs in on the effects of poverty tows on communities of color, arguing, “Debt tows permanently disrupt the lives of low-income Black and Brown families by robbing them of their only means of transportation. 

“Seniors miss medical appointments, victims of intimate partner violence lose long-term safety, and working-class people lose their livelihoods—all over a few unpaid parking citations.”

Director of State Policy and Advocacy, FreeForm, Sabrina Hamm said poverty tows hit those victimized by domestic abuse.

“When a survivor of intimate partner violence gets their car towed, they not only lose their vehicle, but in many cases their only means for safety. Being subjected to intimate partner violence is financially devastating from economic abuse, job loss, costs of relocation, and medical bills,” said Hamm.

“Survivors who are unable to keep up with unpaid parking tickets should not have their long-term safety and financial security put at risk,” Hamm adds.

“California has been a national leader in ending policies that disproportionately punish people experiencing poverty, recognizing that these laws do not make individuals more likely to pay but instead trap them in debt,” said Assemblymember Kalra.

“Poverty tows result in snowballing consequences that threaten people’s stability and undermine our state’s equity goals. I am thankful AB 1082 is moving forward and bringing us closer to ending this unreasonably harsh punishment for parking tickets,” Kalra added.

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About The Author

Jariah Moore is a third-year student at UCLA. She obtained an AA in English prior to transferring, and will earn a BA in English in 2024. Upon graduation, she plans to attend law school and become an attorney. She hopes to advocate for minority groups throughout her practice.

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