A Washington state court will let a homeless man sleep inside his vehicle in peace on Aug. 12.
King County Superior Court recently ruled Steven Long is exempt from Seattle’s 72-hour parking rule because he lives on the streets. Long will be able to spend the night in his 2000 GMC pickup truck without fear of the city towing and impounding his pride and joy.
Columbia Legal Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, who advised Long, claimed the truck was not only the defendant’s home but also where he stored his work tools.
The organizations argued towing Long’s vehicle had breached 19th Century homesteading laws, which could classify the truck as a residence. The court agreed and reclassified Long’s truck as a residence, meaning he can legally park for longer than 72 hours, without being fined or towed like other drivers.
They also successfully claimed the city’s fines were exorbitant, and left Long with no choice but to agree to a payment plan despite having no financial means to settle the debt.
“The act bars the city from towing a vehicle that is occupied as a primary residence, and from forcing an individual to agree to a payment plan to prevent that vehicle from being sold at a public auction,” Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez said in the decision wording. “With these observations, I respectfully concur.”
Gonzalez also found the payment plan to be excessive, and recommended a more “reasonable fine” might be “constitutional and appropriate.” License suspension and parking fines should also be enforced at a level consistent with the offender’s ability to afford those costs.
He revealed homestead protections do not prevent the city from issuing tickets or impounding vehicles. They only apply to post-conviction enforcement.
“We note that our decision on the homestead act does not call into question the city’s independent authority to impound a vehicle,” the wording said.
BL understands more than 5,000 people are homeless across Seattle and King County. More than 2,000 individuals live in automobiles, and about 6,000 live in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or safe havens.
The city intends to appeal what it calls a “legally wrong” decision.