Can Police Tow My Car from Private Property in Ohio? Here’s What the Law Says

Parking woes are a universal struggle, and navigating the legalities surrounding car placement can be particularly confusing when private property comes into play. This is especially true when police involvement adds another layer to the scenario. In Ohio, where property rights are fiercely protected, the question of whether police can tow your car from private property becomes even more nuanced. Let’s delve into the specifics of Ohio law and unpack the situations under which your car might be towed, even from seemingly safe havens like private property.

The Power of Private Property in Ohio

Ohio law firmly upholds the principle of possessory interest, granting property owners substantial control over their domains. As per Ohio Revised Code Section 2917.21, trespassing occurs when someone enters or remains on the property of another without the owner’s consent. This includes parked vehicles. Therefore, the owner of private property in Ohio holds the primary authority to regulate and manage the use of their space, including parking.

When Police Can Tow Your Car from Private Property

While private property owners hold the initial power regarding towing, police can intervene and authorize the removal of vehicles under specific circumstances. These circumstances fall into two categories:

  1. Public Safety and Traffic Flow:
  1. Obstruction of Public Ways: If your car is parked in a way that obstructs public roads, sidewalks, or designated emergency access points, the police have the authority to have it towed for public safety reasons. This includes blocking driveways or intersections, impeding traffic flow, or creating a hazard for pedestrians.
  2. Abandoned Vehicles: A vehicle left unattended on private property for an extended period (typically 48-72 hours) and deemed abandoned by the police can be towed. This often involves notifications to the owner and attempts to locate them before the tow.
  3. Safety Hazards: If your car poses a safety risk due to mechanical issues, leaking fluids, or other hazardous materials, the police might order its removal for public safety reasons. This includes instances where the vehicle is deemed a fire hazard or could cause environmental damage.
  1. Criminal Activity or Public Nuisance:
  1. Evidence of Crime: If your car is linked to a criminal investigation, the police might need to impound it for evidence collection. This could involve situations where the car was used in a crime, found with illegal materials, or associated with suspicious activity.
  2. Public Nuisance: If your car is causing a public nuisance, such as excessive noise, littering, or attracting criminal activity, the police can have it towed to maintain public order. This includes situations where the vehicle is repeatedly parked illegally or used for illegal activities on the property.

Important Considerations for Private Property Owners:

  1. Posting Signage: Clearly displayed signage on the property outlining parking restrictions and towing policies can deter potential violations and strengthen the owner’s case if towing becomes necessary.
  2. Contacting Police: While private property owners have the right to request towing, they cannot physically remove vehicles themselves. Contacting the police is crucial to ensure a lawful and safe removal process.
  3. Documentation: Maintaining records of parking violations, including photos and timestamps, can be helpful in supporting a request for towing and potentially recovering towing fees from the vehicle owner.

Seeking Legal Counsel:

If your car is towed from private property and you believe the action was unlawful or unwarranted, seeking legal counsel can be advisable. An attorney can assess your situation, advise you on your options, and potentially help you challenge the towing or recover damages.


Understanding the legal landscape surrounding towing on private property in Ohio is crucial for both property owners and motorists. While private property owners hold significant control, police can intervene under specific circumstances related to public safety, criminal activity, or public nuisance. By respecting property rights, adhering to parking regulations, and understanding the legal framework, individuals can navigate the complexities of parking and avoid unnecessary towing scenarios.

Note: This article provides a general overview of the law and should not be considered a substitute for professional legal advice. For specific legal questions regarding your situation, it is always advisable to consult with an attorney familiar with Ohio law and towing practices.

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