Vehicle Impounding

Laws on vehicle impounding vary from state to state. Many states have laws for impounding the vehicle associated with the DUI/DWI offense. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

The idea behind the impounding rule is that by impounding the vehicle, the state will manage to remove the driver from the road and make it safer for others. The impounding is generally done by the Department of Motor Vehicle and is an administrative process. Depending on your state law, you can challenge the impounding in a civil court. In some states, you can get your vehicle back after paying a fine. If the DUI/DWI offense caused bodily injury or property damage, the vehicle may be permanently impounded. It may even be sold to compensate the injured or the property owner. The presence of aggravating circumstances can result in impounding of the vehicle for a longer term.

One problem of vehicle impoundment is that it involves taking private property. In many cases, it is the property of someone other than the offender, because approximately half of those apprehended for unlicensed driving are operating vehicles owned by others.

In the period of time your vehicle will be impounded will depend on your state law. In some states a DUI/DWI arrest will result in a mandatory impounding of the vehicle. If it is your second offense, in most states, your vehicle will be impounded for more than 6 months. A few states hold an administrative hearing before the impounding of the vehicle. If you can convince the officer that impounding of the vehicle will cause undue hardship to you such as loss of job or inability to travel to obtain medical care or attend school, you may be able to avoid the impounding.

Since the impounding of a motor vehicle subsequent to a DUI/DWI offense is an administrative process, you cannot prevent it by filing a lawsuit in a court of law. You can however appeal against the impounding in a court of law. The outcome of your DUI/DWI case will have no bearing on the administrative process of impounding your vehicle.

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