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The Florida Statutes

The 2017 Florida Statutes

Title XXIII
MOTOR VEHICLES
Chapter 323
WRECKER OPERATORS
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CHAPTER 323
CHAPTER 323
WRECKER OPERATORS
323.001 Wrecker operator storage facilities; vehicle holds.
323.002 County and municipal wrecker operator systems; penalties for operation outside of system.
323.001 Wrecker operator storage facilities; vehicle holds.
(1) An investigating agency may place a hold on a motor vehicle stored within a wrecker operator’s storage facility for a period not to exceed 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends, unless extended in writing.
(2) The investigating agency must notify the wrecker operator in writing within 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends, whether the hold is to be continued. If no notification follows this period of time, the wrecker operator may release the vehicle to the designated person pursuant to s. 713.78.
(a) If the hold is to continue beyond 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends, the investigating agency may have the vehicle removed to a designated impound lot, in which event the vehicle will not be released by the investigating agency to the owner or lienholder of the vehicle until proof of payment of the towing and storage charges incurred by the wrecker operator is presented to the investigating agency.
(b) If the investigating agency chooses to have the vehicle remain at the wrecker operator’s storage facility beyond 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends, pursuant to the written notification, the investigating agency shall be responsible for payment of the storage charges incurred by the wrecker operator for the requested extended period. In such an event, the owner or lienholder shall be responsible for payment of accrued towing and storage charges for the first 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends, or any period less than the first 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends, when the investigating agency either moves the vehicle from the wrecker operator’s storage facility to a designated impound lot or provides written notification to extend the hold on the vehicle prior to the expiration of the 5 days, excluding holidays and weekends.
(c) The towing and storage rates for the owner or lienholder of the held vehicle shall not exceed the contract or county rates.
(3) If there is a judicial finding of no probable cause for having continued the immobilization or impoundment, the investigating agency ordering the hold must pay the accrued charges for any towing and storage.
(4) The requirements for a written hold apply when the following conditions are present:
(a) The officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle should be seized and forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, ss. 932.701-932.7062;
(b) The officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle should be seized and forfeited under chapter 379;
(c) The officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle was used as the means of committing a crime;
(d) The officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle is itself evidence that tends to show that a crime has been committed or that the vehicle contains evidence, which cannot readily be removed, which tends to show that a crime has been committed;
(e) The officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle was involved in a traffic accident resulting in death or personal injury and should be sealed for investigation and collection of evidence by a vehicular homicide investigator;
(f) The vehicle is impounded or immobilized pursuant to s. 316.193 or s. 322.34; or
(g) The officer is complying with a court order.
(5) The hold must be in writing and must specify:
(a) The name and agency of the law enforcement officer placing the hold on the vehicle;
(b) The date and time the hold is placed on the vehicle;
(c) A general description of the vehicle, including its color, make, model, body style, and year; VIN (Vehicle Identification Number); registration license plate number, state, and year; and validation sticker number, state, and year;
(d) The specific reason for placing the hold;
(e) The condition of the vehicle;
(f) The location where the vehicle is being held; and
(g) The name, address, and telephone number of the wrecker operator and the storage facility.
(6) A wrecker operator’s storage facility must comply with a hold placed by a law enforcement officer, including instructions for inside or outside storage. A wrecker operator’s storage facility may not release a motor vehicle subject to a hold to any person except as directed by the law enforcement agency placing the hold.
(7) When a vehicle owner is found guilty of, or pleads nolo contendere to, the offense that resulted in a hold being placed on his or her vehicle, regardless of the adjudication of guilt, the owner must pay the accrued towing and storage charges assessed against the vehicle.
History.s. 2, ch. 98-324; s. 110, ch. 99-13; s. 9, ch. 2000-197; s. 71, ch. 2001-61; s. 14, ch. 2002-264; s. 2, ch. 2005-137; s. 65, ch. 2008-4; s. 31, ch. 2009-21; s. 8, ch. 2016-179.
323.002 County and municipal wrecker operator systems; penalties for operation outside of system.
(1) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Authorized wrecker operator” means any wrecker operator who has been designated as part of the wrecker operator system established by the governmental unit having jurisdiction over the scene of a wrecked or disabled vehicle.
(b) “Unauthorized wrecker operator” means any wrecker operator who has not been designated as part of the wrecker operator system established by the governmental unit having jurisdiction over the scene of a wrecked or disabled vehicle.
(c) “Wrecker operator system” means a system for the towing or removal of wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicles, similar to the Florida Highway Patrol wrecker operator system described in s. 321.051(2), under which a county or municipality contracts with one or more wrecker operators for the towing or removal of wrecked, disabled, or abandoned vehicles from accident scenes, streets, or highways. A wrecker operator system shall include using a method for apportioning the towing assignments among the eligible wrecker operators through the creation of geographic zones, a rotation schedule, or a combination of these methods.
(2) In any county or municipality that operates a wrecker operator system:
(a) It is unlawful for an unauthorized wrecker operator or its employees or agents to monitor police radio for communications between patrol field units and the dispatcher in order to determine the location of a wrecked or disabled vehicle for the purpose of driving by the scene of such vehicle in a manner described in paragraph (b) or paragraph (c). Any person who violates this paragraph commits a noncriminal violation, punishable as provided in s. 775.083, and the person’s wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle that was used during the offense may be immediately removed and impounded pursuant to subsection (3).
(b) It is unlawful for an unauthorized wrecker operator to drive by the scene of a wrecked or disabled vehicle before the arrival of an authorized wrecker operator, initiate contact with the owner or operator of such vehicle by soliciting or offering towing services, and tow such vehicle. Any person who violates this paragraph commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, and the person’s wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle that was used during the offense may be immediately removed and impounded pursuant to subsection (3).
(c) When an unauthorized wrecker operator drives by the scene of a wrecked or disabled vehicle and the owner or operator initiates contact by signaling the wrecker operator to stop and provide towing services, the unauthorized wrecker operator must disclose in writing to the owner or operator of the vehicle his or her full name and driver license number, that he or she is not the authorized wrecker operator who has been designated as part of the wrecker operator system, that the motor vehicle is not being towed for the owner’s or operator’s insurance company or lienholder, whether he or she has in effect an insurance policy providing at least $300,000 of liability insurance and at least $50,000 of on-hook cargo insurance, and the maximum charges for towing and storage which will apply before the vehicle is connected to the towing apparatus. The unauthorized wrecker operator must also provide a copy of the disclosure to the owner or operator in the presence of a law enforcement officer if such officer is at the scene of a motor vehicle accident. Any person who violates this paragraph commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, and the person’s wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle that was used during the offense may be immediately removed and impounded pursuant to subsection (3).
(d) At the scene of a wrecked or disabled vehicle, it is unlawful for a wrecker operator to falsely identify himself or herself as being part of the wrecker operator system. Any person who violates this paragraph commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, and the person’s wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle that was used during the offense may be immediately removed and impounded pursuant to subsection (3).
(3)(a) A law enforcement officer from any local governmental agency or state law enforcement agency may cause to be immediately removed and impounded from the scene of a wrecked or disabled vehicle, at the unauthorized wrecker operator’s expense, any wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle that is used in violation of any provision of subsection (2). The impounded wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle must be stored at an authorized law enforcement impound yard. The unauthorized wrecker operator shall be assessed a cost recovery fine as provided in paragraph (b) by the authority that ordered the immediate removal and impoundment of the wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle. A wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle that is removed and impounded pursuant to this section may not be released from an impound or towing and storage facility before a release form is completed by the authority that ordered the immediate removal and impoundment of the wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle which verifies that the cost recovery fine has been paid to the authority. The vehicle must remain impounded until the fine is paid or until the vehicle is sold at public sale pursuant to s. 713.78.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the unauthorized wrecker operator, upon retrieval of the wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle removed or impounded pursuant to this section, and in addition to any other penalties that may be imposed for noncriminal violations, shall pay a cost recovery fine of $500 for a first violation of subsection (2), or a fine of $1,000 for each subsequent violation of subsection (2), to the authority that ordered the immediate removal and impoundment of the wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle. Cost recovery funds collected under this subsection shall be retained by the authority that ordered the removal and impoundment of the wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle and may be used only for the enforcement, investigation, prosecution, and training related to towing violations and crimes involving motor vehicles.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law and in addition to the cost recovery fine required by this subsection, a person who violates any provision of subsection (2) shall pay the fees associated with the removal and storage of the unauthorized wrecker, tow truck, or other motor vehicle.
(4) This section does not prohibit, or in any way prevent, the owner or operator of a vehicle involved in an accident or otherwise disabled from contacting any wrecker operator for the provision of towing services, whether the wrecker operator is an authorized wrecker operator or not.
History.s. 3, ch. 98-324; s. 73, ch. 2012-181; s. 65, ch. 2013-160; s. 62, ch. 2014-17; s. 37, ch. 2014-216.