Unlawful Towing or Immobilization

Overview

If you believe your car has been towed or immobilized unlawfully, Nevada law contains a procedure that allows you to have your complaint regarding the tow or immobilization 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 or immobilized.  A vehicle can be lawfully towed or immobilized 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 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.)
  • If the vehicle is parked in a multilevel parking garage that is operated by or for a resort hotel with a nonrestricted gaming license, the owner may immobilize the vehicle if the owner complies with all the above requirements if the vehicle is parked in an anauthorized way, but the cost of removal of the immobilization device cannot exceed $100.00. (NRS 487, SB 320.)
  • If a vehicle is parked in an apartment or residential complex, the property owner or person in lawful possession of the property may tow the vehicle if, in addition to the requirements above:
    • 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).)
    • 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).); and
    • If the parking violation is related to an issue related to the health, safety or welfare of the residents of the complex, then the vehicle may be towed without notice; or 
    • If the parking violation is not related to the health, safety, or welfare of the residents of the residential complex, such as for a parking violation or for being an unregistered vehicle or for having an an expired registration, then the vehicle may be towed after a notice is affixed to the vehicle which explains when the vehicle is to be towed. A resident of the compex's vehicle may only be towed if registration has been expired for 60 days or more; a non-resident's vehicle may be towed if the vehicle is unregistered for any period of time.


Preparing An Affidavit Of Complaint For Unlawful Towing or Immobilization

If you have determined that your vehicle was unlawfully towed or immobilized, you can file an Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing or Immobilization with the appropriate court so long as the costs of towing or immobilization are less than $15,000.

The Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing or Immobilization 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 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 or Immobilization 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 or Immobilization, 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).) You will also include the towing company or immobilization company as a defendant, so that they are served and noticed of your complaint and hearing.

How To Serve The Affidavit Of Complaint

After you file your Affidavit of Complaint for Unlawful Towing or Immobilization and obtain a hearing date from the court, you must arrange to have the complaint (with the hearing date included) served upon the defendants 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 or Immobilization, 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 or immobilized and the costs of towing/storing the vehicle or removing the immobilization device. 

  • If the court decides that the vehicle was LAWFULLY towed or immobilized, the court can order the vehicle owner (you) to pay the cost of towing and storing the vehicle/cost of removing the immobilization device and order the towing or immobilization company to release the vehicle to the vehicle owner upon payment of that cost; or
  • If the court decides that the vehicle was UNLAWFULLY towed or immobilized, 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/cost of removing the immobilization device and order the towing or immobilization company to release the vehicle to the vehicle owner immediately.