SAN ANTONIO - The nearly year-old legal battle between the City of San Antonio and Bexar Towing continues to drag on in the courts.
As we reported, the founder of Bexar Towing was found guilty in a single case of overcharging a car owner for a tow that took place last year. John DeLoach, who sold Bexar Towing but still works for the company, was then sentenced to pay a $500 fine plus $165 restitution to the car owner.
The trial against DeLoach was considered a test case on how Municipal Court Judge Robert Lipo might rule in more than 400 overcharging cases against DeLoach, and current Bexar Towing President Alex Garcia.
Garcia was acquitted of overcharging in a trial that was held on the same day as DeLoach's in January. At the time, Samuel Adams of the City Attorney's office said the city still planned to try Garcia and DeLoach on all of the remaining citations.
On Monday however, Judge Lipo ruled that all of the remaining cases against Garcia and DeLoach will be put on hold while Bexar Towing appeals DeLoach's conviction. It's unclear how long the appeal will take.
DeLoach could have been fined a maximum of $1,000 in the overcharging case, but Lipo instead ordered him to pay $500. The $165 restitution had already been paid to the car owner before the trial even took place. That's because the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the state agency that polices towing companies, had previously ordered Bexar Towing to refund money to car owners who had complained about being overcharged.
The alleged overcharging took place last year after the San Antonio Police Department began enforcing a 2002 ordinance which prohibits towing companies from charging more than $85 for towing cars from private property. The $85 fee is a bit deceiving, because state law always allows companies to immediately add on an impound fee and one day of storage, plus taxes, bringing the actual cost to $128.
Bexar Towing was charging people $293, which is $165 over the maximum, and that is why the company was ordered to refund that amount to some car owners.
Of course, the city council voted last week to update the city's towing ordinance and raise the towing fee from $85 up to $177. After towing companies tack-on the state permitted extra fees, the true cost of a tow will jump to around $220. That higher fee will likely take effect the week of February 11th.
Meanwhile, the overcharging cases that sprang from the feud over the previous towing fee wind slowly through the tangled legal process.