Police impound vehicles for a variety of reasons, such as after a serious traffic offense. However, police may tow someone’s vehicle in other situations. In some circumstances, a vehicle may be impounded even if a crime has not been committed.
When Can Police Impound a Vehicle?
Law enforcement’s ability to impound vehicles depends on the circumstances under which the vehicle was discovered. Typically, police cannot confiscate vehicles after routine traffic stops, or because of short-term illegal parking. Below are the three situations in which police may impound vehicles.
* The vehicle was used to commit a crime. Here, the police can justifiably impound it if leaving it alone would be unsafe. Crimes resulting in impound are those like driving on a suspended license and DUI.
* The vehicle is itself evidence. For instance, if a person is stopped for driving recklessly, their vehicle can be confiscated. Using a vehicle in an assault or manslaughter can also result in an impound, as well as the need for a criminal law attorney.
* The car is a public safety hazard. Police are there to enforce the law, but they also protect the community. If a car is unsafely parked, abandoned, or poses a safety risk, the police can have it towed or impounded.
Can Impounded Cars Be Searched?
Similar to the reasons for impound, justification for search depends on the circumstances of the case. As a rule, however, police make an inventory of the vehicle’s contents after impound. Inventory searches do not require probable cause or a warrant, and they are done to document evidence and protect police from theft allegations. The nature of a search depends on state law; in some areas, searches can only be done on plain-view items, while complete sweeps can be done in other jurisdictions.
Contacting an Attorney
Not all law enforcement officials know when it’s acceptable to impound or tow a vehicle, and it’s possible for police to conduct unlawful searches of impounded vehicles. If a person’s car is illegally impounded or improperly searched during an impound, the victim should consult a criminal law attorney with to learn about their legal rights and possible remedies. You can also follow them on Twitter for more updates.