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The Wilson Law Firm

What Happens to My Car and Other Property After a DUI

A DUI arrest comes with many complications. During the arrest itself, your mind will likely be on the big picture: will you go to jail? Will you lose your license? How much will this cost you? But soon after your release, you will have to deal with dozens of smaller factors as well. One of those is getting your car back.

Your car’s fate depends on the circumstances of your arrest. There are three main outcomes, depending on the officers’ attitude and your driving record: they may leave it on the roadside, impound it short term, or impound it long term.

Left on the Roadside

If you have a valid driver’s license at the time of your DUI arrest, the arresting officers have some leeway in how to handle your vehicle. The best case scenario is that they simply leave it on the side of the road where they first arrested you. They may tag or mark it so Highway Patrol knows it has already been dealt with, or they may leave it as-is.

If this is the case, you can ask a trusted friend or loved one to come get it for you. You can also get it yourself once released as long as your temporary license is still valid. But you should act quickly: if it sits there too long, it could be considered abandoned and be towed.

Short Term Impoundment

Alternately, officers can choose to impound your vehicle. This is completely at their discretion. Leaving it on the roadside is the better of the two options, because it costs you nothing. But they may choose to impound it for several reasons:

  • They don’t want to deal with calling your friend or relative to come get it.
  • They want to search it for evidence. If it’s impounded, they have a right to.
  • They want to make your life harder.

This last reason is surprisingly common. It’s usually the result of disrespectful or uncooperative behavior. It’s best to be polite and cooperative with the police, and if you are, they may not impound your vehicle.

If your vehicle is impounded in this manner, you will be able to get it back within a few days. You will have to pay the towing and impound fees, and will need ID to claim it.

Long Term Impoundment

If you were driving on a suspended license, police have little leeway. They have to impound your vehicle. This is true if your license was suspended administratively or as part of a criminal penalty—such as from a previous DUI. If this is the case your car will be impounded for a full 30 days upon your arrest. If you’re convicted, it could be impounded up to 90 more days.

The fees for impoundment are not cheap. They include the cost of towing, which is often $200 or more on its own, plus a per-day fee. The fee varies with location but can easily be $50 or even $70 per day. That can total over $8,000 in four months.

If the car is not yours, there is a ray of hope. The registered owner can come get the car out of the impound lot. But if they knowingly let you use the car without a valid license, they may face criminal charges of their own.

If you have been arrested for DUI, don’t let a conviction deprive you of your car—or cost you thousands. Call The Wilson Law Firm and get a free consultation today.

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