Jenny Tsay, Esq.
While it may be inconvenient, police can impound your car for several reasons.
Getting your car back after it’s been impounded is a costly legal process, but understanding why your car was impounded can help you avoid going through it again.
So when can police impound your car?
The Car Contains Evidence Of a Crime
Under the Fourth Amendment, police may be able to search your vehicle without a warrant if there’s probable cause that your car contains evidence of a crime. For example, if a person is fleeing from the scene of shooting in his or her vehicle, police may have probable cause to pull the person over and search his or her vehicle if officers reasonably believe that the gun is in the car.
If an officer believes that there could be further evidence of a crime in a vehicle, but is unable to remove it at the scene, he or she can impound the vehicle in order to locate the evidence. Once a car is impounded, police don’t need a warrant to search the rest of the vehicle. This can include any locked boxes or compartments in your car.
After a DUI
Besides harboring evidence of a crime, police can impound your vehicle after a DUI. Most of the time, vehicles get impounded after the driver has committed two or three DUIs within a certain period of time.
To get your vehicle back, you must appear in person at the Chicago City Department of Finance building and provide proof of ownership and driver’s license, plus pay any applicable fees. Fees can include administrative penalties and storage and towing fees.
However, you have the option of challenging these expenses at an administrative hearing. It’s best to consult with a Chicago DUI attorney before proceeding to the administrative hearing because the hearing involves may involve complex legal issues. An attorney can help determine if there was probable cause for the impoundment, meet filing deadlines, and assist you in stating your cause before an adjudicator.
Beyond containing evidence of a crime and after a DUI, police may also impound your vehicle if you have several overdue parking tickets.
- Vehicle Impoundment Factsheet (City of Chicago)
- Can Police Search Closed Containers in a Car? (FindLaw’s Blotter)
- Police Traffic Stops and Vehicle Searches: FAQs (FindLaw)
- Will.i.Am’s Illegal ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean Impounded (FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice)
When Can Police Impound Your Car?