What Happens to a Person’s Car After a DUI Arrest in DC

After a person is arrested for DUI in DC, the police typically park the driver’s car in a legal parking space near the arrest location, so that the driver can go back to that location and retrieve their car after they are released from the police station or the court. Alternatively, however, the police could also impound the car in which case the person would go to the DC impound lot upon their release to pick up the car.

Sometimes, if the arrested driver has a passenger in the car, the police will release the car to the passenger if he or she is deemed sober enough to drive. Regardless of what the police do with a car, especially if it is searched, it may be advisable for a person to contact a DC DUI lawyer, who can help them handle the situation.

Impounded Vehicles

When a person’s car is impounded, it can be searched to inventory the items in the vehicle. This means that any items found in the vehicle as a result of an inventory search can potentially be used as evidence against the person. For example, if a person has unregistered or unlicensed weapons in the car and the car is towed and impounded, that person could be then charged with possession of those items.

In most DUI cases, vehicles are not towed and impounded unless the car was in an accident. Most of the time, the vehicle belonging to a person who has been arrested for driving under the influence is left on the street wherever their car was stopped, so that it can be picked up by the person the next day.

Aside from an inventory search, cars that are pulled over for traffic violations cannot be searched on the street without a search warrant. However, if there are any illegal items in the vehicle that can be seen from the outside of the car, the car can then be searched. Any illegal items that are found as a result of that search can be seized, and the person could be charged for crimes based on the found items.

What Does Someone Need to Bring When Retrieving Their Car?

When a person goes to the tow lot to retrieve their car because it was impounded, they should have the towing receipt the police officers gave them upon their release from the police station.

They should also bring a photo ID to establish that they are the same person listed on the tow receipt.

Civil Forfeiture in DUI Cases

When a person’s car is impounded after a DUI arrest, there are some circumstances where vehicles can be seized as a result of civil forfeiture, which may result in the DC authority seizing property and bringing a civil case completely separate from the criminal charges.

Civil forfeiture has received much attention recently because even if charges are dismissed or reduced, the District of Columbia has the authority to seize the property and sometimes sell it off if they have evidence that the property was used to engage in criminal activity. Even if the criminal activity cannot be proven in a criminal case, the DC government has a lower burden of proof to seize and forfeit personal property, such as vehicles or cash.

How An Attorney Can Help

A lawyer can sometimes help challenge the seizure of vehicles or other properties and help in determining if their vehicle was searched in an illegal or unconstitutional manner.

A DC lawyer can also help you challenge the legality of any search that may have been conducted of your car after a DUI arrest.  Law enforcement officers face various limits on their ability to conduct searches without a warrant, and an experienced DC lawyer can argue for the suppression of evidence that was allegedly found as a result of an unconstitutional search.