CHICAGO (Fox 32 News) - It's one of the most frustrating feelings having your car towed to the city pound.
Now, a legal rights group out of Washington is challenging Chicago’s vehicle impoundment law calling it an unconstitutional scam.
FOX 32's Dane Placko says they're demanding the city pay back millions of dollars in fees and fines.
"I'm a true believer that if you’ve done something wrong you should pay a price. But I had no reason to pay a price,” said Spencer Byrd.
Byrd's car was impounded when a passenger he was giving a lift home was found to have drugs during a traffic stop.
Though Byrd was never implicated, the city towed his car to the South Side Doty impound lot where it's been sitting for three years, accumulating $17,000 in fees and fines. His 1997 Cadillac is worth $2,000.
"It took a toll on myself, my children. It was my livelihood,” Byrd said.
"The City is wrong and they've been doing this for a long time and it’s time to stop,” said attorney Diana Simpson of Institute for Justice.
Now, Byrd is one of the plaintiffs in a federal class action lawsuit brought by the Center for Justice out of Washington D.C., which calls Chicago’s vehicle impoundment system the worst in the country.
"The fact that the City holds on to cars as ransom until you've paid the full amount owed, that itself is unconstitutional,” Simpson said.
The lawsuit says Chicago’s impoundment fees are excessive, about $1,000 per month.
In 2017 alone, the city impounded 22,000 cars with fees and fines totaling $28 million.
"That kind of revenue generation is not what governments should be doing,” Simpson said.
The lawsuit also faults Chicago for providing no recourse for innocent victims like Veronica Walker-Davis, whose car was impounded after a body shop employee took it for a ride with an expired license.
When she couldn't pay to get it back, the city destroyed the car.
"They actually disposed of the vehicle, causing a hardship on me and my family. I feel the city of Chicago made me feel like a criminal,” Walker-Davis said.
A spokesman for the city's law department says they don't comment on pending litigation.