Colorado has a predatory towing problem—residents are often towed for no reason, typically in the middle of the night, and then have to pay hundreds of dollars to retrieve their cars. Last year, the Colorado legislature passed the Towing Bill of Rights to help address this problem, and now students in the Sturm College of Law have designed a web-based app that puts those rights into the hands of consumers.
Third-year student Will Denney and his classmates, Jessi Bird and Brittany Phouminh, created the Towing Rights Advisor for Colorado app last fall as part of Law & Innovation Lab, a six-credit course offering the opportunity to develop technology tools that address real-world legal problems.
Professor Lois Lupica, who leads the lab, says the idea came from conversations with a local partner organization, the Community Economic Defense Project. The students, who had never developed an app before, went to work combing through the legislation and determining the rights consumers have and what information people need most.
The result, Lupica says, is an app that gives the user tailored information based on their circumstance and grouped by urgency—from “I want to understand my rights” to “My car is about to be towed.” The team added user-friendly features, such as a white background with high-contrast lettering for easy reading at night.
Denney, who is multilingual, also translated the app into Spanish. “It’s almost impossible for Spanish speakers to file a complaint,” he says. “Our app takes their information in Spanish and then drafts the complaint in English for them and sends it to the relevant agencies.”
“That’s the value of using technology,” Lupica says. “You could give someone a booklet about their towing rights, but then they still have to flip through 20 pages, 15 of which don’t apply to their situation. This app lets you click on your circumstance, and you get only the information you need right now.”
The app launches this spring and will be available on the Community Economic Defense Project website at cedproject.org.