Protecting Your Rights
When Can the Police or Court Impound My Vehicle?
There are three situations in which your vehicle can be impounded:
1) If you are arrested and taken to jail and your car is left behind, then the police may impound your vehicle if it is not legally parked. If the police are in a good mood and there is someone there who can drive your car away, they may allow you to let that person drive your car away.
2) If you are arrested for Driving on a Suspended License or a type of Driving on a Revoked License (46.2-301, 18.2-272, 46.2-391(D)) the police can administratively impound your car for 30 days if you were suspended for DUI, being a habitual offender, or Refusal to Submit to a Blood or Breath Test.
3) The Court may, as part of your punishment impound your vehicle for an additional 90 days if you were convicted of Driving on a Suspended License or a type of Driving on a Revoked License (46.2-301, 18.2-272, 46.2-391(D)) and you were suspended for DUI, being a habitual offender, of Refusal to Submit to Blood/Breath Test.
Why Did The Police Choose to Impound My Car?
Sometimes the police impound a person’s car even though they were not required to. Sometimes officers choose to impound a car because they do not want the inconvenience of arranging another driver to come. Sometimes the police impound a car because they do not like the suspect. However, other times the police impound a vehicle in order to search the car.
Officers are allowed to search the inside an impounded vehicle in order to inventory the contents of the cars. The idea is that the officers will need to create a record of what is inside the car so that nothing is stolen at the impound yard. Officers will attempt to use this inventory as an opportunity to find drugs, weapons, and other evidence.
If an officer impounds a vehicle without justification in order to search the vehicle, a traffic attorney may convince a judge to exclude anything found in the search from evidence. Additionally, if an officer searches a vehicle without actually taking an inventory of the cars content, an attorney made be able to convince a judge that the search was illegal. If an officer searches a car in a manner inconsistent with a normal inventory search (e.g. tear open door panels, look inside bags and containers, pull up floor mats) an attorney may be able to convince a judge that the search was unconstitutional.
If an officer found evidence against you after impounding your car, talk to a traffic attorney immediately to determine whether the search was legitimate.
How Can I Get My Car Out of Impound?
If your car is impounded because you had to leave it on the side of the road, you can usually have someone pick it up from impound immediately. If your car was administratively impounded for driving after being suspended for DUI, being a habitual offender or a conviction for Refusal to Submit to a Blood or Breath Test, then you should contact a traffic attorney. A traffic attorney may be able to get your car out of impound and get your impound fees refunded by challenging the legality of the impound. In some cases, the police department may be forced to reimburse you for your impound fees if you win your case and your attorney files a motion for reimbursement.