PHILADELPHIA (CN) - Philadelphia Police are enforcing a vast and unconstitutional car-seizure program called LiveStop, impounding thousands of vehicles for having expired registration stickers and other minor violations, a class action claims in state court.
"The defendants have implemented and enforced a policy known as a 'LiveStop,' whereby police officers conduct traffic stops of vehicles with expired registration stickers, and for other enumerated violations, and improperly impound the vehicles without adhering to procedural due process required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," the class claims.
The named plaintiffs are an attorney and his daughter, a first-grade teacher, whose father's car was impounded on March 25 when she was driving it with her dad's permission. They claim the city and its police force are leaving drivers stranded on the street "with deliberate indifference to the due process rights of citizens."
Danielle Sheller says police pulled her over a week ago as she was driving to a florist, and told her the car's registration was expired. A tow truck belonging to co-defendant Philadelphia Parking Authority towed the car away, despite Sheller's tearful pleas that "the defendant police officers speak to her father, who would confirm that he was registering the car in real time over the Internet," the Shellers say.
"Crying and terrified" in an unfamiliar and rough part of town, police abandoned the young schoolteacher, with her laptop computer and diamond engagement ring: a violation of the Authority's policy that "Under no circumstances shall the occupants of any vehicle impounded be abandoned on any city street or highway," the Shellers say.
"At around the same time, Mr. Sheller was able to get his car registered online," meaning the "car was properly registered at the time the PPD unlawfully impounded the vehicle," the Shellers say.
Adding injury to insult, a GPS device worth $175 was stolen because the impounded car was not properly secured, the Shellers say.
Mr. Sheller and his daughter want the LiveStop program scrapped, damages and costs.
Alternatively, they ask that the court "require officers to call vehicle owners, or otherwise notify them of the 'Live Stop,' and inform them of their right to register their vehicles online, in real time, prior to enforcing any immobilization or impoundment procedures."
Danielle Sheller also sued the two officers who pulled her over. She says the cops intentionally inflicted emotional distress by "laughing at her while she cried" and "leaving her stranded in an unfamiliar neighborhood." Their "extreme and outrageous conduct," caused fear and "uncontrollable shaking," she says.
Stephen Sheller and Matthew Monroe, of Sheller P.C., are the counsel of record in the Court of Common Pleas.