Unlawful Towing

Overview

If you believe your car has been towed unlawfully, Nevada law contains a procedure that allows you to have your complaint regarding the tow decided by a judge on an expedited basis.  (NRS 487.039.)

Before you think about filing a case with the court, though, you need to determine whether your vehicle was lawfully or unlawfully towed.  A vehicle can be lawfully towed under the following circumstances:

  • If a vehicle is parked on residential property with a single-family home on it, the property owner or person in lawful possession of that property can tow the vehicle if:
    • The vehicle is parked in an unauthorized manner on the property;
    • The property owner uses a tow car operator subject to the jurisdiction of the Nevada Transportation Authority; and
    • The property owner calls the police and informs the police of (1) the time the vehicle was removed; (2) the location from which the vehicle was removed; and (3) the location to which the vehicle was taken.  (NRS 487.038(2),(4).)
  • If a vehicle is parked on commercial property or an apartment complex, the property owner or person in lawful possession of the property may tow the vehicle if, in addition to the requirements above:
    • A sign is displayed in plain view on the property declaring public parking to be prohibited or restricted in a certain manner or the vehicle is parked in a handicap space; and
    • The sign shows the telephone number of the police department or sheriff’s office.  (NRS 487.038(1)-(2).)
  • If a vehicle is parked in a parking facility, the facility owner may tow the vehicle if the owner complies with all of the above requirements, but if the vehicle is being towed for nonpayment of a fee, the owner must wait twenty-four hours after the expiration of the time period for which the fee was paid.  (NRS 487.037.)


Preparing An Affidavit Of Complaint For Unlawful Towing

If you have determined that your vehicle was unlawfully towed, you can file an Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing with the appropriate court so long as the costs of towing and storing the vehicle are less than $10,000.

The Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing form is available, free of charge, at the Civil Law Self-Help Center.  You can also download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:

AFFIDAVIT OF COMPLAINT FOR UNLAWFUL TOWING
PDF FILLABLE  |  PDF NONFILLABLE

For information about how to fill out and file court forms, click to read Basics of Court Forms and Filings.


Filing The Affidavit Of Complaint

The Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing must be filed in the justice court for the township where the property from which the vehicle was towed is located.  (NRS 487.039(1).)

Click to visit Find My Court and Justice Courts page for court locations and contact information.

TIP!  Different justice courts may have different filing requirements, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your court's procedures.  The Las Vegas Justice Court, for instance, requires all documents to be filed electronically, so anyone filing in that court needs an e-mail address to set up an electronic filing account.  To learn more about electronic filing, visit the Las Vegas Justice Court website.

When you file your complaint, the court clerk will charge you a filing fee of $71.  If you cannot afford the fee, you can prepare and submit an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (sometimes called a "fee waiver") and ask the court to waive the filing fee.

A form Application to Waive Filing Fee is available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center, or you can download the form on your computer by clicking one of the formats listed under the forms title below:

APPLICATION TO WAIVE FILING FEE
PDF FILLABLE  |  PDF NONFILLABLE

APPLICATION TO WAIVE FILING FEE (LAS VEGAS ONLY)
LV Pdf Fillable 

Click to visit Filing Fees and Waivers for forms and information.

Who To Name As A Defendant In The Affidavit Of Complaint

In your Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing, you must list as a defendant the property owner or the person in lawful possession of the property (for example, a person renting the property) who authorized the towing of your vehicle.  (NRS 487.039(4).)

How To Serve The Affidavit Of Complaint

After you file your Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing and obtain a hearing date from the court, you must arrange to have the complaint (with the hearing date included) served upon the defendant by the sheriff, constable, or other process server. (NRS 487.039(3).) Make sure that proof of service is filed with the court prior to your hearing.

Click to visit our Constables & Sheriffs page for links and contact information.

The Hearing On The Affidavit Of Complaint

When you file your Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing, the court will set a hearing to be held not later than four business days after your filing.  (NRS 487.039(3).)  

At the hearing, the court is required to determine whether your vehicle was lawfully towed and the costs of towing/storing the vehicle. 

  • If the court decides that the vehicle was LAWFULLY towed, the court can order the vehicle owner (you) to pay the cost of towing and storing the vehicle and order the person who is storing the vehicle to release the vehicle to the vehicle owner upon payment of that cost; or
  • If the court decides that the vehicle was UNLAWFULLY towed, the court can order the property owner or person in lawful possession of the property who authorized the towing to pay the cost of towing and storing  the vehicle and order the person who is storing the vehicle to release the vehicle  to the vehicle owner immediately.