A private parking enforcement company is butting heads with police in Edmonton for using a device called the “Denver boot” to enforce parking rules on private property.

Named for the city in Colorado, the Denver boot is a device fitted to a vehicle’s wheel to render the car undriveable. The owner of RFM Parking says what his company is doing is legal because it’s enforcing parking rules on private property.

But according to a CBC Edmonton report, the city’s police have a different opinion.

They call the boot’s use illegal because it’s an act of mischief to render another person’s vehicle inoperable, and is also a form of extortion because the vehicle’s owner must pay a $300 fine to have the boot removed.

Twice now, RFM’s owner, Derrick Cantwell, has been arrested and spent the night in jail for booting cars, but he says he doesn’t plan to stop, suggesting it’s up to drivers to read the warning signs his company posts in parking lots it patrols, which do indeed warn vehicles will be “immobilized or towed,” and won’t be released before the $300 fine is paid.

No Canadian court has yet rendered a decision on the legality of using parking boots, but CBC says the Edmonton case has been assigned a senior Crown prosecutor, so one could be forthcoming. Right now, the CBC says the only relevant example of case law comes from Scotland, whose highest court said, “It is illegal for vehicles to be held for ransom.”

Whatever the Canadian courts decide may affect RFM’s future business plans in Canada: right now, the company operates in Atlantic Canada, Alberta, and B.C., but it wants to expand nationally.

(via CBC)