City lowers tow fee for income-eligible individuals through Fine and Fee Justice Initiative

Income-eligible Sacramentans who have had their vehicle towed now can receive a waiver for the $180 Sacramento Police Department tow administrative fee for vehicle retrieval.

The fee waiver is the first reform to come from the City of Sacramento’s participation in PolicyLink’s Cities and Counties for Fine and Fee Justice initiative, a national effort aimed at eliminating or reforming fines and fees that result in a disproportionate burden on people of color and low-income households.

Through close work with City and community leaders, the tow administrative fee waiver was identified as the most feasible and impactful starting point, said Amy Williamson, the City’s manager for financial empowerment.

To determine reform priorities, City staff conducted a thorough internal review of all City fines and fees and engaged in extensive community outreach. This included six public listening sessions and a public survey, as well as more targeted meetings with community leaders.

“We are looking at exploring other opportunities for fee reform such as a ‘Text Before Tow’ program that could allow residents to register for notifications before their vehicle is towed in some cases,” Williamson said.

The fee reform is funded through a $200,000 allocation from the City’s American Rescue Plan.

“If a vehicle is towed, drivers can visit the Sacramento Police Department service counter to obtain a vehicle release form for the tow yard,” said Deputy Chief of Police Norm Leong. “Eligible residents can fill out a short application form for the $180 administrative fee waiver. But fees due to the tow yard will still apply.”

The City is initially implementing the reform with ARP funds as a pilot and will assess impact after two years.

The fine and fee survey is still open and residents are welcome to provide other suggestions. More information on income eligibility and the Fine and Fee Justice initiative can be found on the City’s website. 

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