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What To Do If Your Car Is Impounded for a DUI

By San Diego Attorney on March 18, 2021

California’s harsh stance against drunk driving comes with a long list of penalties, ranging from administrative issues like license suspensions to criminal punishments like jail time and court fines.

If you were pulled over for suspected DUI, then arrested, you know how troubling that is. Every single punishment will impact your life, and you should talk to an attorney about how to move forward, but one of the most pressing issues for you might be your car. DUIs often lead to vehicle impoundments, and the process for getting your car back in San Diego is not always simple.

When Are Cars Impounded?

San Diego County Sheriffs are allowed to impound every vehicle after a DUI arrest, according to California Civil Code 22651, but due to time, resources, and budget, they may make exceptions. The arresting officer may first take you to the local police station to cool off in the drunk tank while a friend or family member picks up your car off the side of the road. However, if they do not pick it up in a certain amount of time, the vehicle may be towed to an impound lot, where you will have to pay a fee to get it back.

This is common with DUI checkpoints, where the police can make dozens of arrests in a single night. This may result in a massive backlog of abandoned vehicles on the side of the road, which the police may clear by calling a towing company or allowing other drivers to pick up if their budget is limited.

Also, the police are more likely to impound your vehicle if you have been arrested for a DUI within the past 10 years, but they may forget to check your records or simply give you a pass. In general, having multiple DUI arrests will lead to your vehicle being impounded.

In addition, the criminal court can also include a vehicle impoundment in your DUI penalties. Judges will look over your criminal record and prior arrests before finalizing your sentence. With first or second DUI arrests, a judge can impound a vehicle for up to 30 days. For additional arrests, the sentence can be extended to a maximum of 90 days.

Finding an Impounded Car in Vista

If your DUI occurred in Vista, then you can look up your impounded vehicle online through AutoReturn, a database that works with San Diego County to log impounded vehicles. You can search by VIN, license plate, or make/model, and the site will search through all the towing companies in the county for your car. The police may also provide you with information about your impounded vehicle, including any restrictions you may have.

When Can I Get My Car Back?

If the court has not ordered your vehicle impounded, you likely can get your vehicle back from the impound lot by paying a fee. However, if your license was suspended and you did not win a DMV hearing, you will not be able to drive it. Instead, you will have to have a friend or family member drive it for you until your license is reinstated. You may also have to install an ignition interlock device or fulfill other requirements based on the DMV’s judgment.

Speak to an Experienced DUI Lawyer

If you have been arrested for a DUI, you should immediately contact the San Diego DUI lawyers at jD LAW. Our lead attorney is a board-certified criminal law specialist and a member of the California DUI Lawyers Association with an excellent track record of winning DUI cases. He can explain your options in a free consultation and prepare a strong defense to protect your future. To get started on your case, call jD LAW at (760) 630-2000.

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James N. Dicks
jD LAW, P.C.

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If you feel uncomfortable with an in-person meeting due to the recent surge in COVID-19, our office is offering remote appointments via phone and Zoom. Please call or email us to set up your appointment.

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