The Impound Laws for a Vehicle

Updated March 23, 2017

Impounding a vehicle is the legal seizure of a piece of property, most commonly automobiles and documents, due to an infringement of laws or regulations. Although a car can be impounded, only a set of limited, specific situations allow for the transfer of legal custody. Fortunately, once a piece of property becomes impounded, the owner can exercise different options to regain possession of the impounded item.


The first circumstance to allow for an impound is when the owner is also the driver guilty of the offence. When the owner drives his vehicle, under state law he must be licensed, properly insured, and not under the influence of any drug or alcohol. When an owner gets pulled over in any of these situations, the car gets impounded; the driver is responsible for all of the fees attached. Once the car arrives at the impound, it must stay there for 30 days, beginning the day the car got towed, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A car may be impounded even if the owner is not driving the car. If another person drives your car and you are not a passenger, it's assumed the owner believes the driver has acquired and followed the three essential elements of legal driving: insurance, licensees and sober driving. If the driver does not, the car is able to be impounded for 30 days.


When the guilty party is the owner of a vehicle, he can release it two ways. He can simply let the car sit at the impound for 30 days. After the 30-day sentence has passed, the owner can pick up the car upon paying all necessary fees, which can be hefty at that point. An owner's other option is paying for a bond to release the car; however, if the owner becomes convicted of the crime, the car must return to the impound lot to complete its time sentence.

If a car gets impounded when the owner is not in the vehicle, he may retrieve it before the 30-day sentence is up. By agreeing to disallow the guilty operator to drive the car again, the owner can pay a fee on top of the cost of towing and storage to release the car before 30 days, according to the Municipality of Anchorage.


A car can be taken to the impound lot and released using one of the prior methods, but it can only be impounded once for one of the three reasons mentioned. If an owner releases his car from the impound, he cannot be convicted of any of the three crimes for at least five years after the first, or the vehicle is subject to be forfeited, according to the University of Tennessee. Once a vehicle becomes forfeited, the car gets auctioned off to the public.

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About the Author

Christian Barclay is currently an undergraduate in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio. He has research experience in the field of chemical engineering and interned this previous summer at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza in Cairo, Egypt. He has written for Demand Studios since May 2009 and has been published on and