Impounding a Vehicle in Arizona

We need our vehicles. If you have one, then you know it is hard to imagine life without one. Certain behavior or conditions while driving or involved your vehicle could create a situation where you find your vehicle impounded. If this has happened to you or someone you know, then you are probably wanting to know all you can about getting your vehicle back. Sometimes you may need an attorney to help you, others times you might be able to do it on your own by following a few instructions. Below is a basic overview of the impoundment process in Arizona, including qualifications that make you eligible to regain custody of your vehicle and what's needed to get it done.

Moving Violation & Impoundment

Reduction in incidents of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol was the reason for the implementation of a program to impound vehicles if arrested for DUI. Impoundment programs for the same purpose is followed by most states, including Arizona. The Centers for Disease Control analyzed several studies and found that accidents caused by a motorist driving under the influence were reduced due to the program. Impoundment is not for DUI matters alone; several conditions involving a driver and a moving vehicle can create a situation where an officer removes and impounds your vehicle.

The program, though successfully reducing car accidents, has harsh consequences for otherwise law-abiding citizens who need to get to work, school, or other places to function in society and perform whatever social or familial duties they have. If your car is impounded, it could and likely will be impounded for 30 days.

Moving Violations That Qualify For 30-Day Hold

The following are the main violations that will automatically move a police officer to place your vehicle on a 30-day hold:

  • Suspended, revoked, or canceled driver's license;
  • Not having a valid driver's license or never issued one in any state;
  • Extreme or Aggravated DUI; or
  • Driver under 21 with alcohol in the system.

Qualifications for Early Release

You must request a post-storage hearing within ten days of your vehicle's impoundment to plea for an early release. There are minimal situations where you could qualify for early release of your vehicle, but if you were under the legal drinking age with alcohol in your system or arrested for extreme/aggravated DUI, then you will not qualify for early release.

The primary two reasons are explained below.

  1. Suspension, Revocation, Cancellation. If any of the latter three conditions applied to your driver's license, but you were driving your car anyway, were caught, and your vehicle was subsequently impounded, you may be able to have the vehicle released early if you are the owner/driver and your license has been restated by the court and MVD.
  2. Not having a valid driver's license. If you are able to provide a valid driver's license and valid registration, then you will likely qualify for early release.
  3. Stolen Vehicle. If the vehicle was reported stolen before there was cause to have it impounded, then you may qualify to have it released early.

In all situations, if there is a spouse or if the owner of the vehicle was not driving the vehicle at the time it was impounded, and he or she has all current and valid documentation, he or she can request a hearing to release the vehicle early. There is one condition, however, and that is: the spouse or owner must sign an Agreement of Operation that states he or she will not allow a person to drive the vehicle within the next year if that person is in violation of 28-3511.

There are few other situations where your vehicle could be released early, but not upon your personal request but by request of another person or entity:

  1. Rental Agency. If the vehicle belongs to a car rental company, then an early release can be granted to the car rental company if it provides proper documentation.
  2. Business Agent. If the vehicle was driven by an employee of a business while conducting business and the vehicle was subject to bailment, then an early release can be granted to the business.
  3. A lien holder. If your vehicle is being repossessed, then an early release can be granted to the lien holder if the lien holder provides proper documentation.

No Early Release: 30-Day Impoundment

If you must wait the 30-day period before regaining custody of your vehicle, then you should have been provided a form by the police officer at the time the vehicle was impounded. Upon the date the vehicle is eligible for release, you must formally request the same with or at the law enforcement agency that impounded your vehicle.

  • Bullhead City Police Department, 1255 Marina Blvd., Bullhead City, AZ 86442, 928-763-3357
  • Kingman City Police Department, 2730 E. Andy Devine Ave., Kingman, AZ 86401, 928-753-1911
  • Mohave County Sheriff's Office, 600 W. Beale St., Kingman, AZ 86401, 928-753-0753

You must request the release of your vehicle within ten days of it becoming eligible for release. If your driver's license is not yet valid or you live out-of-state and cannot make it in time to request release, then you must send a signed, notarized letter to the proper law enforcement agency advising the same.

You must have all required documents with you before the law enforcement agency will provide you with a release form. Once you receive the release form, you will take it to the impound/towing company and request your car. You must pay the flat fee, daily fee, and sometimes a gate fee.

Documents Required for Release of Vehicle

When you call or go to the police department to request a hearing, you must have all the valid and proper documentation with you. If it is you or spouse requesting the hearing, the following is the required documentation:

  1. Valid driver's license from your state of domicile;
  2. Current insurance;
  3. Current registration with current Mandatory Insurance "M/I" on the license plate; and
  4. $150.00 by cash, credit, money order (If you use a credit care, the cardholder must be present and have a valid government issued ID).

Additional documents that will be required in accordance with the requestor:

  1. Marriage license (original or certified copy), if the vehicle is being released to a spouse who is not listed on the registration.
  2. Ignition interlock device paperwork reinstallation, if you were required to have an ignition interlock device installed on the impounded vehicle.
  3. Rental contract & letterhead letter authorizing assigned an employee to recover the vehicle on behalf of the company, if the impounded car had been driven by the customer who rented it.

Criminal Investigation & Impoundment

If you are under criminal investigation and your vehicle was impounded as evidence or in pursuit of an ongoing investigation, then it will not be released so long as the investigation is open.

Once you have been convicted and sentenced, or all charges have been dismissed, you can contact the Property and Evidence departments of the appropriate law enforcement agency to request for release of your property. Oftentimes, if you have an attorney, your attorney will assist you. The prosecutor usually must provide confirmation that the property can be released before the Property and Evidence department will allow the release.

Contact an Experienced DUI/Criminal Defense Attorney

A criminal defense or DUI attorney can provide assistance throughout your entire matter, including legal counsel and support during and after the post-storage hearing and any other criminal matter that may be relevant. If it is your intention to regain custody of your car sooner as opposed to later, and to fight any accompanying criminal allegations, contact the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp today to discuss your options.

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