Removing Vehicles From Public or Private Property

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Several California Vehicle Code sections govern the police department’s authority to remove vehicles from the roadway or public property, including:

  • 22651(a) Obstruction of traffic on a bridge
  • 22651(b) Obstruction of traffic on a highway
  • 22651(d) Obstruction of a private driveway
  • 22651(e) Obstruction of a fire hydrant, emergency vehicles
  • 22651(e) Obstruction of the routing of emergency vehicles
  • 22651(i)(1) Parking citations, five or more outstanding
  • 22651(o)(1) Expired registration (past due 6 months or more)
  • 22651.5(a) Audible vehicle alarm
  • 22652 Illegally parked in a disabled parking zone
  • 22669 Abandoned vehicles

Who Can Cause a Vehicle to Be Removed?
Anyone who feels a vehicle may be subject for removal from the highway or public property can notify the police department or an officer.

How to Remove a Vehicle
To report an illegally parked vehicle, call:

  • 714-754-5280: 7:30AM to 5:30PM Monday through Friday
  • 714-754-5290: 24-hour hotline for abandoned vehicles

When you call, be prepared to provide the vehicle license plate or vehicle identification number (VIN) located on the lower-left portion of the dashboard as seen through the windshield. Provide the make, model, color, and any distinguishing features. Also provide the vehicle's exact location by address or nearest intersection. Be prepared to explain why you believe the vehicle should be towed. If the situation warrants police attention, an officer will be dispatched to assess the matter and take the appropriate action.

Removal of Vehicles from Private Property
If an unauthorized vehicle is parked on private property, the California Vehicle Code authorizes the owner of any private property to, subsequent to notifying the police, cause the removal of that vehicle to the nearest public garage, provided there is a sign posted at all entrances to the property that prohibits public parking reference Section CVC 22658(a).

Who Can Cause a Vehicle to Be Removed?
The property owner and any person authorized as the agent of the property owner acting on their behalf. This includes patrol tows--a tow service under contract with the property owner to remove illegally parked vehicles that are blocking driveways or designated fire lanes, provided the name of the tow service is printed on the sign required at all entrances. The property owner or agent thereof need not be present at the scene.

NOTE: If you cause the removal of a vehicle from private property and the sign requirement has not been met, you could be liable for any towing or storage charges.

The Sign

  • Must be a minimum of 17 inches by 22 inches in size
  • State that the vehicle will be towed at the owner’s expense
  • Display the telephone number of the police department (714-754-5252)
  • The name of the patrol tow service authorized to remove vehicles
    How to Remove a Vehicle

The owner or agent must contact the Costa Mesa Police Records Bureau at 714-754-5373 and provide the following information once the vehicle has been removed:

  • The date and time the vehicle was removed
  • The tow service used for the removal
  • The address or location where the vehicle was removed
  • The year, make, model, style, and color of the vehicle
  • The license plate information, e.g. state and number
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN)

Once the tow service has provided the above information, they will receive a private party impound number from the records technician. It is the responsibility of the property owner and/or the agent to provide written notice of the following information to the vehicle's owner or registered owner:

  • That the vehicle has been removed from the location
  • The grounds for its removal
  • The mileage on the vehicle at the time of its removal
  • The name and address where the vehicle was taken