SAN FRANCISCO—A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday, October 10, ordered the return of a vehicle that belongs to Sean Kayode, 52, who is homeless and was living out of his car while he was working for a food delivery service.

Kayode’s car was towed from a street cleaning section of a street near the homeless shelter where he was staying. He previously received about 30 parking tickets in a little less than a year. Kayode paid some of the parking tickets, but it still resulted in the towing of his vehicle.

The question raised is whether or not the towing of Kayode’s car violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which guarantee’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. State law grants local authorities the right to tow a car if it has more than five outstanding parking tickets for at least three weeks. In addition, the city or city council is allowed to keep the car until all the fines are paid off.  

The judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring the return of the car to the owner. If Kayode, was not granted the injunction, he would have had to pay around $11,000 in towing and storage costs.  

Kayode’s lawyers are hoping the ruling will set a precedent for others in similar situations. A similar situation transpired for James Smith, 64, who had his car towed in December 2017.

John Cote, a spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera mentioned that homelessness is a serious issue in the city. “We’re very sympathetic to Mr. Kayode being homeless. Homelessness is something the City works tirelessly to counter every day. At the same time, homeless or not, if you have a car and park it, you have to park it legally,” said Cote to NBC Bay Area News.

According to Cote, the city’s Municipal Transport Agency reduced fees for people with lower income.