Lawsuit: City's impound policy is 'racket'

Spencer Byrd's 1996 Cadillac DeVille meant a lot to the 51-year-old carpenter and part-time mechanic.

Byrd, who lives in Harvey, kept most of his tools in the trunk and would travel to help people with car troubles to earn extra cash.

In June 2016, Byrd came to Chicago to help a client whose car had broken down. After failing to get the car up and running, Byrd agreed to drop his client off at home. On his way there, Chicago police officers pulled Byrd over for having a broken turn signal. Police searched both men and found that Byrd's client had heroin in his pocket.

Byrd was released without being charged - but police kept his car. Nearly three years and several court hearings later, Byrd's still fighting to get it back. He owes the city more than $17,000 in storage and tow fees.

"It's been a rough road these past three years," said Byrd, who, with others, filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court Monday that seeks to upend Chicago's controversial impound system.

The suit - which was also filed by two other car owners and the Institute for Justice, a national civil liberties law firm - seeks to end the city's "impound racket," return all impounded cars to their owners, and have the city reimburse owners whose cars were destroyed while impounded.

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