My Car Was Impounded After a DUI Arrest, What Do I Do?

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Imagine you’re driving home in Arizona and get pulled over for a suspected DUI. The officer conducts a field sobriety test and you’re subsequently arrested for DUI. To make matters more challenging, your car is impounded on the spot. This scenario is not uncommon, and understanding the legal implications and procedures is crucial.

Under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) 28-3511, if you are arrested for DUI, your vehicle can be impounded for up to 20 days.

This statute allows law enforcement to tow and store vehicles when a driver is arrested for DUI, especially if the driver has a suspended, revoked, or cancelled license.

In this scenario, if you’re found guilty of DUI, you could face several penalties. These may include fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol education courses, and the installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. The severity of these penalties often depends on factors such as your blood alcohol content at the time of arrest and any previous DUI convictions.

Handling the impound process can be overwhelming. At Arja Shah Law, we specialize in DUI cases and can provide expert guidance on the steps to reclaim your impounded vehicle and mitigate the potential penalties of your DUI charge. Ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive informed and effective representation throughout your case.

This article will cover the following topics:

vehicle impoundment in arizona

Understanding Vehicle Impoundment in Arizona DUI Cases

In Arizona’s DUI cases, the law has recently shortened the vehicle impoundment period from 30 days to 20 days. This change is important for individuals facing DUI charges, as it directly affects the duration their vehicle remains in a state-mandated holding.

Vehicle impoundment is not automatic in every DUI case; it often depends on factors such as the gravity of the offense, any prior DUI history, or the driver’s license status at the time of arrest.

The process involves the vehicle being towed to a designated facility, and its release is contingent upon fulfilling certain criteria, including the payment of associated fees. 

What to Expect When Your Car is Towed After a DUI

When you’re arrested for a DUI in Arizona, the process that follows can be overwhelming, especially when it involves your vehicle being impounded.

Understanding what to expect can help you manage this situation more effectively.

  • Immediate Aftermath of a DUI Arrest: Following a DUI arrest, especially under charges such as DUI impaired to the slightest degree, DUI drugs, or aggravated DUI, your car is likely to be towed to a police impound. This is standard procedure in many police departments across Arizona.
  • Understanding the Impound Process: Under Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) 28-872, every vehicle of a driver arrested for DUI can be impounded. Recent changes have reduced the mandatory impound period to 20 days. If your license was suspended at the time of arrest or you were charged under ARS 28-1381 A1, A2, or A3, expect your vehicle to be held.
  • Dealing with Towing and Storage Fees: The impoundment involves towing the vehicle to a safe location and incurring both towing and storage fees. These fees will vary based on the towing company and the length of storage.
  • Releasing Your Vehicle: To get your car out of impound, you will need to obtain a release, often from the justice court where the arrest occurred. This process may require a list of documents, and in some cases, you may request a hearing within 10 days to challenge the impoundment.
  • Legal Assistance: An experienced DUI or criminal defense attorney can be invaluable in these situations. They can help you understand the steps to get your vehicle back, assist in obtaining the necessary impound form, and provide guidance on handling any related DUI charges.

car at impound lot

Steps to Get Back Your Impounded Car Post-DUI Arrest

Getting your car back after it has been impounded due to a DUI arrest in Arizona involves a series of steps. 

  1. Understand the Impoundment Terms: Recognize that under Arizona law, particularly ARS 28-872, your vehicle may be impounded for up to 20 days following a DUI arrest.
  2. Wait for Notification: After your vehicle is impounded, you’ll receive a notice from the police department detailing the impoundment terms and the process for reclaiming your vehicle.
  3. Gather Necessary Documents: Prepare the required documents, which typically include proof of ownership (title or registration), proof of insurance, valid identification, and possibly proof of a valid driver’s license.
  4. Check for Eligibility to Release Vehicle Early: Under certain circumstances, you may be able to request an early release of your vehicle. This requires specific documentation and sometimes a hearing.
  5. Pay Impound Fees: Be prepared to pay towing and storage fees. These fees vary based on the towing company and the duration of impoundment.
  6. Obtain a Release Form: Visit the police department or the impound lot to obtain a vehicle release form. This form is necessary to retrieve your car from the impound lot.
  7. Visit the Impound Lot: Go to the impound lot with your release form and other necessary documents. Ensure you have the means to pay any associated fees.
  8. Inspect Your Vehicle: Before leaving the impound lot, inspect your vehicle for any damages. If there are issues, report them immediately to the impound lot staff.
  9. Seek Legal Advice if Needed: If you encounter issues or complexities, consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney or DUI lawyer who can provide guidance or represent you in any hearings related to the impoundment.

Following these steps can simplify the process of reclaiming your vehicle after it has been impounded due to a DUI arrest in Arizona, making this aspect of your DUI case easier to manage and understand.

How To Get Your Car Out of Impoundment Early

Obtaining an early release from vehicle impoundment after a DUI arrest in Arizona can be a complex process.

The key is understanding when you’re eligible for early release and how this process differs from the standard procedure,

  1. Eligibility for Early Release:

    • First-time Offenders: If this is your first DUI offense and your license was valid at the time of arrest, you might be eligible.
    • Non-Owner Drivers: If the car belongs to someone else who was not involved in the DUI incident, the actual owner might be able to reclaim the vehicle early.
    • Extenuating Circumstances: Situations like needing the vehicle for work or family emergencies can sometimes warrant an early release.
  2. Differences in the Early Release Process:

    • Additional Documentation: You may need to provide extra documentation to prove eligibility for early release, such as employment verification or proof of ownership by another party.
    • Expedited Hearings: In some cases, you may request an expedited hearing to plead your case for early release. This process is more immediate compared to the standard impoundment period.
  3. How Arja Shah Law Can Help:

    • Handling Legal Complexities: The team at Arja Shah Law can guide you through the complexities of the early release process, ensuring that all necessary documentation is accurately prepared and submitted.
    • Representation at Hearings: If a hearing is required, having an experienced attorney from Arja Shah Law can be beneficial. They can argue on your behalf, highlighting the reasons for early release eligibility.
    • Advising on Impoundment Laws: Understanding Arizona’s impoundment laws can be challenging. Arja Shah Law can provide clarity on these laws, including recent changes that might affect your case.

Seeking early release from vehicle impoundment in a DUI case requires a clear understanding of the eligibility criteria and the specific steps involved in this unique process.

Assistance from knowledgeable legal professionals like those at Arja Shah Law can significantly enhance your chances of a successful outcome.

cop inspecting suspended license

What If My Car was Impounded Due to a Suspended License

Consider a scenario where your car is impounded in Arizona because you were driving with a suspended license. Under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) 28-3511, vehicles driven by individuals with a suspended, revoked, or cancelled license are subject to impoundment for a mandatory 20-day period.

If your license is still suspended at the end of the 20-day impoundment period, you personally would not be able to retrieve the car.

The law requires proof of a valid driver’s license, along with current vehicle registration and insurance, to release the vehicle from impoundment.

However, if the vehicle is registered under a different name, the registered owner can reclaim the car before the 20-day period is up.

This is contingent on them providing necessary documentation and demonstrating that they were not aware of your suspended license status or that the vehicle was used without their permission.

How a DUI Defense Attorney Can Help 

Arja Shah | Shah Law Firm Arja Shah from Shah Law Firm is well-versed in dealing with DUI-related cases, especially when it involves impounded vehicles in Arizona.

Her legal expertise is focused on examining the details of DUI arrests that lead to impoundment and effectively arguing for the release of vehicles. Shah’s approach is about understanding the specific requirements of Arizona’s laws on vehicle impoundment and helping clients through the legal procedures to get their vehicles back. She aims to reduce the impact of the impoundment on her clients’ lives by providing clear legal assistance and representing them in any necessary hearings.

For those dealing with the challenges of a DUI charge and the subsequent impoundment of their vehicle, Shah’s legal services offer practical support and representation. To contact Arja Shah Law Firm for help with such cases, call (602) 560-7408 or visit their website for more details and arrange a free initial consultation: Arja Shah Law Firm Contact.

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