If your vehicle is stolen and recovered by cops, you might need to pay to get it back

If your vehicle is stolen and recovered by cops, you might need to pay to get it back (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Layne Reed is finally reunited with his two wave-runners and trailer. They were stolen more than a year ago and recovered just this week, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in other stolen goods, from a South Salt Lake home.

“I'm stoked! That's awesome,” he said.

It’s an awesomeness that is undercut by the fact that his wallet is $538 lighter. That's how much it cost him to get his own stolen property back from the impound lot. Legally, it could have been closer to $1000 but the impound guys cut him a break.

"I'm trying to work with people the best I can,” the impound lot manager told Layne as he handed over the cash. Layne was originally told it had to be cash, but at the lot he was told a credit card would be accepted but that it would cost 3 percent more.

Layne wants to know why he is being forced to pay anything, let alone hundreds of dollars, to recover his own property.

“I don't know that it feels fair,” he said. “Obviously, in the beginning there was somebody that stole my stuff. Having to spend that much money to get back my stuff, yeah, I do feel victimized again."

As Get Gephardt has investigated before, the amounts that impound lots are allowed to charge are set by state law. Tow truck drivers get to charge $147 per hour do the towing and another $40 per day to store what they tow.

State Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division spokesperson Charlie Roberts say law enforcement recognizes it’s not ideal. MVED cops will try to contact a victim before they call for an impound after a stolen vehicle is recovered, he says. There is no law that requires police agencies to do so.

Layne reported his vehicles stolen to the Ogden police department. Ogden listed the vehicles as stolen with the NCIC database, which can be viewed by all police agencies. The vehicles were recovered by the South Salt Lake Police.

Layne says he did not immediately hear from any of those agencies. He says he discovered his watercraft had been found by chance, while watching a news story about the recovered merchandise. He noticing his distinct wave-runners in news-photos. Layne says it was he who reached out to South Salt Lake to inquire what he needed to do to get his property back.

South Salt Lake Police spokesperson Gary Keller couldn't confirm whether or not they had attempted to make contact with Layne before impounding his vehicles, but he says they did attempt to contact everyone who had reported their vehicles stolen in SSL. Keller says officers struggled to connect with Layne the day he had reached out to them.

Ogden police spokesperson Danielle Croyle said they didn't receive notice that Layne's vehicles had be recovered until about three hours after Layne had picked them up from the impound lot.

"It's not a pleasant situation when you have your vehicle stolen,” Roberts said. “You get hit from both ends, which is unfortunate, but kind of the way it is.”

While not ideal to make someone pay to recover their stolen stuff, Roberts says the alternative would not impounding the vehicles, which isn't really realistic.

“The vehicle has to go somewhere,” he said. “It would be better that it go to a tow yard than left there and more damage done to it or stolen again or something like that.”

Tow yards get to charge per vehicle. In Layne's case, that's three things - the two wave-runners plus the trailer.

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