California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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You were arrested for drunk driving and find that your car is stuck in an impound lot. You are facing new impound charges every day. Can a police officer really impound a car following a DUI arrest?
Yes. Most jurisdictions say that police departments have the authority to impound your vehicle if you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
Following a vehicle impoundment, you will have to pay a:
If you are arrested for drunk driving, the arresting officer usually has the authority to get your vehicle towed to an impound lot.
Once a car is impounded, there is usually a certain process that the authorities have to follow.1
Note, though, that impoundment is not mandatory in DUI cases. For example, if you have a non-intoxicated passenger in the DUI case, the police may allow that person to drive the vehicle away.
Further, the police may let you phone a family member or friend to come and take the vehicle.
You can usually ask an arresting officer to use a specific towing service or impound lot.
But the officer is not obligated to honor your request. For example, the officer may choose a tow company if you are too intoxicated to clearly communicate your request.
If the police pick a towing company, you will probably not know where your car is once released from the police station.
To find your car, you should contact the police department that had jurisdiction over your DUI arrest.
Each police station may use a certain towing company and impound frequently. Therefore, a phone call is typically needed to make sure you get the exact location of your car.
You must travel to the impound lot and usually present the following paperwork to the impound company:
You may also have to present documentation showing that you are the true registered owner of the vehicle. This can often be done by presenting:
Note that if any of the above are in your impounded car, the impound company usually lets you get them from the vehicle.
In addition to providing the correct paperwork, you will need to pay any towing fees and impound fees before being able to drive off with your car. Impound fees will vary, but they are usually around $30 per day.
If you ignored your impounded car for some time, the cost of impound fees may be greater than the value of your car. In these cases, you do not have to pay the fees. The impound company will eventually get a lien on the car and:
Most jurisdictions have the authority to suspend your driver’s license soon after a DUI arrest.3
If your license was suspended, you must still travel to the impound lot in order to retrieve your car. But you will have to bring a licensed driver with you so he/she can drive your car off the impound lot.
You will still also have to provide the impound company with the paperwork discussed above.
Most jurisdictions allow a law enforcement agency to conduct an inventory search of your car after they have impounded it.4
An inventory search is supposed to be conducted to generate a list of all the property in your vehicle.
The purpose of the search is to:
You should speak with a DUI attorney or law firm if you were arrested for drunk driving. This is especially true if you were arrested for a second DUI or have multiple prior DUIs on your record.
A DUI defense attorney or criminal defense lawyer can help in DUI cases by:
Keep in mind that even a one-time DUI/DWI can lead to misdemeanor charges. A DUI conviction can also result in:
A law office or DUI lawyer can help you minimize these penalties by raising a legal defense to contest your criminal charges. A few common defenses include your lawyer showing that:
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.