Police impounded my car, how do I get it back? Well, getting your car towed isn’t just a hassle. It can cost you a lot of money, especially if your car stays in storage for a long time. The police can tow your car for various reasons and might keep it in certain situations.
Police Impounded My Car How Do I Get It Back?
1. Locate Your Car
If you were not present when your car was towed and impounded, you should first find out where it was taken. The police department that impounded your car should be able to provide this information.
You also need to find out the reason for the impound. Common reasons include unpaid parking tickets, involvement in a crime, being parked in a no-parking zone for an extended period, or if the driver was arrested for certain offenses like driving under the influence.
2. Gather the Necessary Documents
You will typically need the following to prove ownership of the vehicle:
- Proof of ownership
- Valid driver’s license
- Proof of insurance
If your license was suspended or expired, you might need a licensed driver to retrieve the car for you.
3. Pay the Fees
Once you have all the necessary documentation and have addressed any legal issues to get back your car from police impound, visit the lot. Be patient; you will need to follow the due process before your car is released.
You will have to pay fees to get your car released from impound. The fees typically include towing fees, daily storage fees, and administrative fees. The longer your car remains in the impound lot, the higher the fees will be.
4. Inspect Your Car Before Leaving
Do not just drive away; inspect your car for any damages or missing items. If you notice any issues, report them immediately to the impound lot staff.
If your car was impounded due to legal issues, such as unpaid tickets or involvement in a crime, you might need to resolve these issues before getting your car back. This could involve paying fines, attending court hearings, or providing additional documentation.
Can Police Tow Your Car?
Towing laws are different in each state and often even within different cities. In many places, the police can tow your car, and sometimes, they can hold onto it for a while.
The police can generally tow a car for various reasons, such as specific traffic violations. For instance, they might tow a car if:
- it is parked where it blocks traffic, stops others from using a driveway or crosswalk, or creates a dangerous situation;
- your car is left unused in a public spot for too long (the time varies by state);
- it’s linked to a crime or might have evidence of one;
- the driver doesn’t have a valid license;
- the driver is arrested for DUI/DWI or another crime;
- the car is in an accident and the driver is unable to drive; or
- a car is on a public road without registration, it might be towed. But in some states, they won’t tow it unless it’s been unregistered for a specific number of days or even months.
Can Police Impound Your Car?
Sometimes, when the police tow a car, they can also take it and keep it. This is different from just storing a towed car. For example, if someone’s car is towed from private property, it’s kept in a tow lot until the owner picks it up.
When the police tow a car, they can either keep it or just store it in the tow lot. When they impound a car, they might not give it back until certain requirements are met, depending on the situation. For instance, if the police stop a car and find it’s not registered or the driver doesn’t have a license, they might tow it and impound it. Usually, the car stays with the police until the owner fixes the problem (registers the car or gets a valid license).
The police can impound a vehicle if it might have evidence of a crime or if it was used in a crime. For instance, if it was the getaway car in a robbery or if it was involved in a DUI/DWI, they can usually keep it.
But if the car was towed for something less serious, like parking in the wrong place, the police usually will not keep it.
Can Police Search an Impounded Car?
Impounding a car is more than just losing it temporarily and paying for towing and storage. When the police impound your car, even for a short time, they can search it without a warrant or a strong reason, like if it was involved in a crime.
They perform an inventory search to list what’s inside the car for safety reasons. If they find any evidence of a crime, such as illegal drugs in the car, it can lead to criminal charges.
What Happens if Your Car is Impounded by Police?
In many cases, when police tow and impound a car, they will notify you and offer a chance to discuss whether it was done correctly. So, they can’t take your vehicle or charge you without following the law.
Sometimes, police departments may hire private towing and storage lots instead of running their own. These private lots might not know the towing laws well and might care more about getting paid than your rights as the car owner.
You May Request the Immediate Release of Your Vehicle
Don’t forget to ask the storage lot to return your car as soon as possible if the police have towed it. Just because they towed it doesn’t mean they can keep it. But if you do not ask, they might say you left it there on purpose and charge you for storage.
What if Your Car Is Towed for Suspected Criminal Activity?
If the police impound your car because they suspect it’s related to a crime, you might be under investigation. Be careful about speaking with them or the tow yard.
Anything you say can be used against you in a criminal case, and you only get Miranda warnings when you’re in custody. It’s safer to have a lawyer handle this communication for you.
Some city police departments share information online on what to do if your car is towed. If not, try calling local towing yards. If that doesn’t work, contact the police or sheriff’s department to find your car and learn how to get it back.
When you find it, a licensed driver with insurance should retrieve it. If it’s not the owner, they’ll need the owner or a notarized power of attorney.
If your car doesn’t have current plates, you might not be able to drive it away. You’ll need valid plates or registration stickers, or plan to have the car towed to your desired location.
Court Orders for Releasing Impounded Car
If the tow lot won’t release your car, you may get a court to order its release. The process varies by state. Typically, you can request an order by filing a motion or asking for a hearing. Each state has its own rules about when and how a car owner can request a hearing to decide if their impounded car should be released.
You can find these rules in your state’s laws, like in Texas, Illinois, or Washington. If the court decides your car should not be impounded, they’ll order its release.
Even if your car is impounded due to criminal charges, you or your lawyer can ask the court to release it until the case is settled. If the police have already searched and processed the car for evidence, the court may see no reason to keep it any longer.
If your case takes longer to go to trial than the allowed impoundment time, the court could let you have your car back. This could help you avoid paying big storage fees that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Who Pays the Impound Fees if You Are Not at Fault?
In some states, the owner might not have to pay for towing or impound fees in certain situations. Let’s look at a few examples.
1. The Car Was Used in a Crime by Someone Else
Usually, if your car gets impounded because someone else used it for a crime, like stealing or borrowing it, you don’t have to pay the fees. The person convicted of the crime usually covers the costs. If the defendant isn’t convicted, it’s usually the police or prosecutor’s office that pays.
2. Stolen Car While in Impound
If your car was stolen when it got towed or impounded, you usually don’t have to worry about paying the towing and impound fees legally.
3. The Car Was Illegally Towed or Impounded
Depending on what happened, you might not have to pay for towing or impound fees if the car wasn’t towed or impounded legally in the first place.
Even if you are not legally responsible for the fees, the parking lot may insist you pay them to release your car. This can be tough because if you don’t pay, you won’t get your car back, and the fees keep increasing each day. In some cases, if nobody pays, they might sell the car eventually.
If you have paid fees or lost your car due to someone else not paying, you might be eligible for reimbursement. The process varies by state, and your car insurance might help cover the expenses.
Talk With an Attorney
Towing and impound laws vary depending on your state. They can also be quite complex, especially when related to criminal charges. If you have been charged with a crime or your car was involved in one (like driving with a suspended license), make sure to contact a criminal defense attorney right away.
If you are struggling to retrieve your car from police impound, a lawyer could assist you in getting it back sooner. Ultimately, if you’ve paid towing or impound fees that you shouldn’t have had to pay, or if your car was sold because you couldn’t afford the fees, an attorney might be able to help you get your money back.