In most states, repossession agents have to inform the local police department of their intent to seize a vehicle before the repossession takes place.
During the vehicle repossession, the police may be contacted by the borrower or the repo agent to come to the scene. Whether it is the borrower or repo agent who contacts the police, the officer must follow specific guidelines so he or she doesn’t violate the borrower’s constitutional rights.
What is the Role of the Police During a Vehicle Repossession?
The police are there to help keep the peace. If the situation becomes volatile, they should assist in diffusing the confrontation between the repo agent and the borrower.
The police are there to protect you and keep anyone from being harmed. It is not the police’s role to assist the repo-man in taking your car.
What Type of Police Involvement is Unacceptable?
The police should not assist or enable the repossession.
Unless the lender has taken the unusual step of obtaining a court order, the police should not order you to turn over your keys or to “step aside” and let the repo man take your vehicle.
If the police threaten you with arrest or command you to turn over the vehicle, they may have crossed the line from keeping the peace to breaching the peace. This could violate your constitutional rights.
While you obviously may need to yield to the command of an armed law enforcement officer, make it clear that you protest the repossession.
I Think the Police Crossed the Line. What Can I Do?
You may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against the police department, the repossession company, and the lender for wrongful vehicle repossession.
Gather statements from witnesses, if any, and obtain the police report that details the incident. Take a video of your interaction with the repo agent and/or police officers. Photographs the scene, including your vehicle and any damaged property. Write a statement, including the date and time, of what happened. Seek legal help from a consumer rights attorney.