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Having Your Car Impounded After a DUI

If a police officer or other law enforcement official arrests you for driving under the influence (DUI), there's a good chance your car could be towed and impounded. If this isn't your first offense, after having to bail yourself out of jail, you'll be bailing your car out of an impound lot, too.

This article discusses why cars are impounded and how the process works.

Why Do Police Impound Cars?

Under some state DUI laws, drivers may have their cars impounded after committing a second or third drunk driving offense within a set period of time. This set period is usually five years. The vehicle impoundment aims to deter future drunk driving incidents by removing the vehicle from the driver's control.

Sometimes towing can be avoided if the vehicle is in a safe location. An officer might allow another person to take your car for you. However, this tends to happen only at DUI checkpoints. In most other instances, a towing company will be called.

Vehicle confiscation for a DUI or driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense is almost always limited to repeat offenders. Vehicle confiscation is less common with the growing use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs). These devices prevent intoxicated drivers from starting their cars. The IID aims to stop DUI offenders from driving while drunk again. As a result, an arresting officer has less of a reason to impound an offender's vehicle.

Some state courts have also ruled that vehicle confiscation can be an excessive punishment and have limited the use of confiscation by law enforcement. This area of DUI-related law continues to evolve. Check the current laws in your state for more information.

How Does the Process Work?

Vehicle confiscation is typically handled through a civil administrative process. This means it doesn't involve a penalty imposed by a criminal court following a DUI proceeding. You usually have the option of an appeal through the civil court after an impoundment, rather than through the criminal court that handled your drunk driving charges.

In most cases, you can regain possession of your vehicle after paying towing fees, storage fees, and any administrative fees separate from impound fees. You might have to obtain a release from the police department. You generally have to be the registered owner of the vehicle to get a car out of an impound lot. You'll also need a valid driver's license.

Vehicle confiscation is a deterrent rather than a permanent solution to potential future DUI offenses. However, vehicle seizure and forfeiture can be permanent in rare cases. In Florida, for instance, a motorist convicted of driving under the influence is subject to vehicle confiscation and forfeiture if their license was suspended or revoked at the time over a prior DUI conviction. Other states have similar rules in place.

Most states require some test to determine whether motor vehicle confiscation is unfairly excessive for an underlying criminal offense. Most courts find that the public danger posed by repeat DUI or DWI offenders justifies confiscation in most cases.

Was Your Car Impounded After a DUI? A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

A first or second DUI charge or DUI arrest can be scary enough without adding the worry of a driver's license suspension or impounded vehicle. Have you been arrested and subjected to criminal charges and DUI penalties? Are you the subject of a suspended license or facing jail time? Perhaps you want the guidance of a DUI lawyer to know your rights in a DUI case. A criminal defense attorney can help with a DUI defense.

Find an experienced DUI attorney near you today. Lack of probable cause or challenges to blood alcohol content (BAC) tests can help you overcome DUI charges. Speak to a DUI defense attorney to get personalized help.

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