What to do if You are Booted

Q. What is the new scofflaw program?
A. Beginning in July 2011, scofflaw vehicles found parked within the public right-of-way may have their wheels locked with a "boot." If the past-due amounts and $145 booting fee are not paid within 48 hours (excluding weekends), then the vehicle may be towed. Generally, the vehicle will be released from boot or impound upon payment of all parking fines, default penalties, interest, collection fees, and booting and/or tow fees associated with the vehicle. Details and exceptions are described below.

Q. What is a scofflaw?
A. A scofflaw is someone who has four or more overdue, unpaid parking tickets on one vehicle.

Q.  Why is the City implementing this new program? 
A. The scofflaw booting program is expected to increase parking availability, increase parking payment compliance, and reduce the amount of money owed to the City for delinquent parking fines. As of June 29, 2011, more than 20,000 vehicles have four or more overdue, unpaid parking tickets, despite multiple opportunities to pay, dispute the tickets, or set up a time-payment plan. Vehicles in scofflaw status are often parked in dense business and residential areas, including downtown, Capitol Hill, and the University District areas, contributing to shortages of available parking spaces. Payments collected go into the City's General Fund. The General Fund helps pay for services such as human services, police, fire, parks, courts, and libraries.

Q. When will the program start? 
A. Scofflaw vehicles will be subject to booting starting July 5, 2011. Notices are automatically mailed to vehicle owners as their vehicles appear on the scofflaw list.

Q. How has the City dealt with scofflaws?   
A. Before July 2011, vehicles with four or more overdue, unpaid parking tickets that were parked illegally in the public right-of-way may have been towed and impounded. If the owner did not pay the tow and administrative fees - typically around $200 - their vehicle was auctioned off by the City's tow contractor after 15 days. Scofflaws did not have to pay their initial, underlying parking tickets to get their vehicle out of impound. However, the lack of payment did go on their credit report. A City ordinance enacted in December 2010 and effective July 2011 changed these requirements.

Q.How will the new program deal with scofflaws?
A. With the new law, beginning July 2011, scofflaws found parked legally or illegally in the public right-of-way will have a boot, a wheel-locking device, applied to their vehicle. If they do not pay their past-due parking tickets within 48 hours, excluding weekends, then their vehicle may be towed. If they still do not pay their unpaid parking tickets and related fees after 15 days, then their vehicle may be auctioned.

Q. In a nutshell, how is scofflaw enforcement changing after July 5, 2011? 
A. There are three big changes:

    • Before July 2011, a vehicle had to be parked illegally to be cited for scofflaw and impounded. Starting July 5, 2011, vehicles legally parked in the public right-of-way may also be immobilized. Teams of parking enforcement officers driving vehicles equipped with license plate recognition technology will be dedicated to looking for scofflaw vehicles on city streets.
    • Before July 2011, scofflaw vehicles could be towed away and impounded. Starting July 5, 2011, scofflaw vehicles may have their wheels locked by boots instead of being towed. Booted vehicles may be impounded if the unpaid scofflaw-eligible parking tickets and boot fee are not paid within two business days. A vehicle may be towed sooner if parked in time-restricted tow zones, such as "peak hour" spaces.
    • Before July 2011, a vehicle owner had to pay only impound and storage fees - typically around $200 - to get a vehicle back from the tow lot. Starting July 5, 2011, to get a vehicle back, the owner must also pay all of the parking tickets - including collections fees and interest - that are in collections for the vehicle, as well as a boot fee, to get the boot removed. If the vehicle is impounded, the owner must pay the tow fees as well.

Q. I don't want to get "booted," but what can I do to prevent it if I can't pay all of my outstanding parking tickets?
A. For tickets that are not yet in collections, you may be able to set up a time payment arrangement with the Court, to spread payments out over a period of time. If you are currently receiving federal or state poverty assistance, you may be able to perform community service to pay off tickets that are not yet in collections. For parking tickets in collections, you may be able to set up a time payment arrangement with the Court's collection agency. In addition, Seattle Municipal Court has extended its "collections reduction event" through July 15, 2011, which may reduce the total fees owed on tickets currently in collections.

Q. What is the Collection Reduction Event?
A. The Court will remove collection fees and interest on parking and traffic ticket cases that are paid in full before a car gets the boot. The event, originally scheduled for May and June, has been extended through July 15, 2011. Cases in garnishment proceedings will not qualify for the reduction of fees. Interested parties should contact Seattle Municipal Court at 206-684-5600 or visit the Court's website athttp://seattle.gov/courts/docs/coll/reductionFAQ2011.pdf.

Q: If I don't pay my tickets, and my vehicle is booted, can I get community service or set up a time payment plan with the Court to get my vehicle back?
A: If your vehicle is booted, you must pay all parking tickets that are in collections and associated fees to PayLock or to the Court's collection agency. The collection agency may set up a time-payment plan with a minimum down payment of $200 or 10 percent of the amount owed, whichever is greater. If you set up a payment plan and you miss a payment, your vehicle will become eligible to be booted again. If it is booted again, you will have to pay in full to get the boot removed; a time payment plan will no longer be an option. You cannot use community service to get the boot removed.

Q. Will there be a fee for being booted?
A. Yes. The $145 fee covers the vendor's charge for use of its boot devices and customer services.

Q. How will the City find scofflaws?
A. Scofflaws are identified by vehicles equipped with "license plate recognition" (LPR) technology, operated by the Seattle Police Department. LPR systems are able to "read" up to 10,000 plates per day on vehicles parked on city streets and compare them against a database of plates in scofflaw status. When the system finds a match, it alerts the operating officer, who will place a boot on the vehicle after verifying its scofflaw status. The system will be checking for stolen vehicles at the same time it is looking for scofflaw vehicles.

Q. Can the City boot a scofflaw vehicle if it is parked on private property or in a privately owned parking lot? 
A. No.

Q: How will I know that my vehicle has been booted?
A: The boot device is painted yellow to ensure visibility. Typically, an 8.5-inch by 11-inch water-resistant notice will be affixed to the driver's window, and a copy placed under the windshield wiper.

Q. How will I get a boot released from my vehicle?
A. The notice on the vehicle includes a 24/7 toll-free phone number for PayLock, the City's boot vendor. A PayLock customer service representative will take your payment or advise you how to contact the Court to dispute the vehicle's scofflaw status. A boot will be released when all overdue tickets and fees are paid, or if the City determines that the motorist is not responsible for the unpaid tickets.

Q: What about tickets that were issued to the vehicle before the current owner purchased it?
A: The City checks with the appropriate state's vehicle licensing agency to make sure that only vehicles with four or more unpaid, overdue parking tickets issued after the last transfer of title will be booted. A vehicle will be released without charge if the appropriate state's licensing agency's records indicate that the current legal owner is not responsible for four or more unpaid, overdue tickets.

Q: If I have not registered my vehicle yet, will the Court accept a bill of sale as proof of the purchase date? 
A: No, there must be a title or report of sale on file with the appropriate state's vehicle licensing agency that supports the motorist's claims of ownership and purchase date.

Q: What forms of payment will PayLock accept over the telephone?
A: PayLock accepts credit cards, debit cards, and bank account transfers.

Q. What if I can't pay by credit card (or other telephone payment)?
A. The Court's collection agency will accept cash payments, money orders, or cashier's checks. The driver must pay in person during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the collection agency's customer service windows on the first floor of the Seattle Municipal Court, 600 Fifth Avenue, at the King County Jail (Monday through Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), or at any of the collection agency's other locations and hours of operation. (AllianceOne has offices in Gig Harbor and the municipal or district courts of Tukwila, Marysville, Kitsap County, and Clark County.)

Q: After I pay the amount due, how is the boot removed?
A: Seattle is using "smart boots," which can be released by the driver by entering a code into a keypad on the boot device. The code is provided to the driver by a PayLock customer service representative after the motorist pays the overdue tickets and fees. Payments by credit card or bank transfer can be handled by telephone call to a call center that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, resulting in a release within minutes.

Q. What if I can't safely remove or lift the boot device?
A. The boot device weighs about 16 pounds. Seattle Police Department personnel will be dispatched to remove the device for those unable or unwilling to release the boot themselves.

Q. Where can I return the boot once I have removed it?
A. After removing the boot, you can drop off the boot at a designated drop-off site within two days of release. The return locations will be printed on the notice that is placed on the vehicle when the boot is applied. At this time, the planned locations and hours are:

    • Dick's Towing, 10140 W Marginal Pl S, Tukwila, 
      24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    • Lincoln Towing, 3919 Pasadena Place N.E.
      24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Lincoln Towing, 12220 Aurora Ave. N.
      24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Southeast Neighborhood Service Center, 3815 S. Othello St., Suite 105
      Monday -- Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
      Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • University Neighborhood Service Center, 4534 University Way N.E.
      Monday -- Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
      Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you do not return the boot within two calendar days of release, a fine of $25 per day can be levied, up to $500 maximum (after 20 days). Motorists who anticipate a delay in returning the boot are urged to contact PayLock via the phone number provided on the boot notice as soon as possible.

Q: What if I try to cut, break, or otherwise remove or damage a boot?
A: Anyone who damages a booting device may be charged a replacement fee and/or prosecuted for the crime of property destruction (SMC 12A.08.020).

Q: What rights do I have if I believe that my vehicle should not have been booted and/or impounded?
A: The registered owner of a vehicle that has been immobilized or impounded by the City has 30 days from the release of the boot to request a hearing at Seattle Municipal Court. The owner may request a hearing after payment to release the boot, or after impoundment, with or without payment to redeem the vehicle. If the vehicle is impounded and the owner does not pay to redeem the vehicle, s/he may request a hearing to be held within two business days.

Q: What is the purpose of a hearing? Can I challenge the validity of the overdue tickets?
A: The hearing is an opportunity to challenge whether the vehicle had four or more overdue tickets and was immobilized and impounded in accord with state and local laws. The hearing is NOT an opportunity to challenge any of the overdue tickets themselves, as those opportunities have already passed.

Q. Why doesn't the City just tow scofflaw vehicles instead of booting them?
A. Removing a "smart" boot is cheaper and easier for those affected. Towing a vehicle is a time-consuming, burdensome process for vehicle owners as they have to find a ride to the impound lot and it doesn't allow for the vehicle owners to readily access their personal belongings, such as baby car seats, prescription drugs, or important paperwork left in a vehicle.

Q. How is the City implementing this program? 
A. Staff from the Seattle Municipal Court, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Police Department, Department of Finance and Administrative Services, Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Office for Civil Rights, City Budget Office, and City Council are all involved in the implementation of this program. An outside vendor, PayLock IPT, was selected through a competitive bidding process to provide the City with boots and payment/release services. Other partners include the Court's collection agency (AllianceOne Receivables) and the City's tow contractor (Lincoln Towing).