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What happens to my car after being arrested for DUI in California?

Posted in Criminal Defense,Drug FAQ'S,Drunk Driving,DUI on October 7, 2019

Getting pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence is difficult and may require you to go to court. This process is tough enough, especially when you have to worry about getting your car back as well. Even though a vehicle will almost always be towed away after a DUI arrest, you can almost always get it back. You may not even lose your vehicle at all.

What could happen at the time of the arrest?

If you have been through the field sobriety tests and perhaps a breathalyzer, and are subsequently placed under arrest for DUI, the police officer has to do something with your car. There are a few factors that will be taken into consideration at the time of arrest when it comes to what happens with your vehicle – your previous record as well as the officer’s mood.

Your prior DUI record is something the officer may look at after you have been pulled over. If you have had a DUI in the previous ten years, the officer is supposed to impound your vehicle. This rule is not always followed, and the officer may not even check your prior record during the arrest.

The officer’s attitude at the time of your arrest matters, which is why you should always be respectful to the police, even if you do not think you are intoxicated. In many cases, the law does not require the police to impound your car, but again, they have to do something with your car. There are a few factors to consider:

  • Are you close to a safe parking space? In many cases, traffic stops happen alongside busy roadways, which will result in the officer having to impound the car.
  • Is there a sober driver in the vehicle? If this is the case, the officer could allow that person to drive the car home.
  • Will the officer wait for a sober driver to get there? In most cases, this is not a realistic possibility, but it would not hurt to ask.

What if I was Driving through a Checkpoint?

DUI checkpoints are legal. If you are stopped and arrested at a DUI checkpoint, the police will typically park the car at a safe space nearby and allow someone to come to pick your vehicle up, as long as they get there before the checkpoint ends. Checkpoints do not typically run for more than a few hours at a time. The person who picks up the vehicle usually must be the registered owner of the vehicle, but the police may allow you to designate someone to get it for you if you are the registered owner. If nobody can pick your car up before the checkpoint ends, the car will be impounded.

What if there was an accident?

The vehicle will likely be impounded in the event an accident occurs, especially if there were injuries or a fatality. The vehicle becomes evidence in this case.

How to get your car back after it is impounded

To get your car back, you will need to have:

  • Proof of registration (if you are the registered owner)
  • Proof of insurance (possibly SR22 insurance if convicted of DUI)
  • Your temporary driver’s license if it has been issued
  • Money to cover all of the impound fees

If the car was not yours, the owner can retrieve the car immediately, as long as they have their registration, proof of insurance, a driver’s license, and a way to pay the impound fees.

Nobody will be able to retrieve the car if it was impounded as evidence until the court gives the okay to do so.