A Madison County jury found the owner of Guardian Parking Enforcement not guilty Thursday, May 7 of obstructing, delaying or resisting an officer during a car booting.
Darren Helm, the owner of Guardian, was charged on Oct. 29, 2014 after Ruben Echegoyen, a senior studying financial economics, found a boot on his Subaru at Shelbourne Apartments at about 5:30 that morning and Helm refused to remove the boot when the police ordered him to.
According to a press release by Helm’s, attorney Allen Browning, Helm said he was pleased with the verdict since he was only doing his job when he was arrested.
“Pursuant to a local Rexburg ordinance 911, when a boot is placed on a car for violating parking rules of the property owner, Guardian is instructed to immediately remove the boot upon payment of a city-authorized fee for un-booting the car,” according to Browning’s press release.
If booting companies were required to remove boots prior to receiving payment, they would be put out of business, according to the press release.
“It would be more efficient for businesses like Guardian to just tow cars away from the lots, and that would cause extreme hardship on BYU-Idaho students and others,” according to the press release.
Echegoyen said he did not expect to find a boot on his car when he got up that morning.
“I got up early that morning because I had a presentation at 6:30,” Echegoyen said. “When I got outside, it was booted, which was astonishing to me because I lived there.”
Echegoyen said he had believed he was booted by mistake because he had a temporary parking pass displayed in his rear window rather than a sticker, which might have gone unnoticed.
He said he called the towing company to get the boot removed, but they refused to do so without payment. When a towing employee arrived, the two of them argued about the legitimacy of the booting.
“Mr. Echegoyen was given a temporary permit to affix to his new car’s rear window,” according to the press release. “He failed to affix the permit as instructed. Guardian took pictures during the booting process, which showed that there was no permit visible. Therefore, the car was booted.”
According to the press release, evidence used in the trial showed that Echegoyen placed the permit in his car’s rear window after the boot was already in place.
“When informed of the booting fee, (Echegoyen) called the police and demanded to be unbooted,” according to
the press release. “Rexburg City Police Officer Wynn Robinson responded to the call, and met with Darren, and told him to remove the boot immediately or be cited for resisting or obstructing an officer.”
According to Browning, Helm refused to remove the boot because Ordinance 911 did not require him to do so until after he had been paid. Robinson then arrested Helm and detained him for about 45 minutes in the city jail.
Echegoyen said police gave him a ride to his presentation and that the boot on his car was removed without charge the following day on court order.
“The owner had them remove the boot so then [city employees] wouldn’t chop it off,” Echegoyen said. “I did not end up paying anything for the boot.”
The Madison Country Attorney formally charged Helm for resisting and delaying or obstructing an officer.
Echegoyen said the prosecution asked him to testify, but he couldn’t because he was off-track and working in Georgia at the time of the trial.
According to court documents, Wood said Helm broke the law when he disobeyed the officer that morning. Wood questioned several officers present at the scene and discussed the text of Ordinance 911, which regulates towing and booting in Rexburg.
According to Ordinance 911, booting and towing companies in Rexburg must be authorized by the Rexburg Police Department in order to lawfully do business. They obtain that permission after they apply for a booting and towing license.
According to court documents, an email sent to Helm from Jen Peterson, the manager of Shelbourne Apartments, indicates that the apartment complex has a verbal agreement with Helm that his company can boot or tow cars parked without permits or cars that are parked in the wrong place.
“The tenant is under the same obligation as a visitor and has to pay according to the situation,” according to the email in the court documents.
According to the email, residents who cannot find a legal place to park may ask the managers for assistance in finding one, and on rare occasions, the managers will ask the towing company to reduce or waive the fee for removing the boot.
The jury declared Helm not guilty at about 3:47 p.m.
According to Browning’s press release Helm was pleased with the verdict since he was just doing his job when he was arrested for not obeying an illegal police order.
“There are some people associated with the police department who want to put him out of business, and arresting him was one more instance of this,” according to Browning’s press release.
Echegoyen said he had mixed feelings about the verdict.
“I honestly feel like he’s a good person and he has good intentions,” Echegoyen said.
For more information on Rexburg Ordinance 911, see Rexburg.org.