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A judge has struck down portions of a Michigan towing law after low-income Detroit residents shared extraordinary stories of high fees and frustration about the whereabouts of their vehicles.

The case centered on the practices of Detroit police and a towing company. The decision by U.S. District Judge Judith Levy could force changes in a law that’s viewed as favorable to the towing industry.

Levy last week ordered Detroit to notify the state within 24 hours after police call for a vehicle to be towed. That information typically triggers a notice to the car owner.

There was no maximum deadline to report a towed vehicle under the law, attorney Jason Katz said Wednesday.

Vehicle owners also can ask a local court to suspend the immediate payment of towing and storage fees before they get a hearing to object to a car’s impoundment, the judge said.

“You have an opportunity to get into court and fight it,” Katz said. “I don’t think first asking for $1,000 is fair.”

Gerald Grays believed his car was stolen in 2016. More than two years later, he finally learned that his car had been towed. He was told he would have to pay $930 just to get a hearing in 36th District Court, according to the lawsuit.

Levy ordered Detroit to pay $2,000 to Grays and $1,500 each to two more people. There was no immediate comment from the city Wednesday.

While the case only involved Detroit, Levy’s decision could be applied elsewhere in Michigan, Katz said.

State attorneys defended the law when Republican Bill Schuette was attorney general but dropped out of the case after Democrat Dana Nessel took office in 2019.

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