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Washington State DUI Impound Law Takes Effect

July 26, 2011

Washington State’s DUI impound law went into effect last Friday, requiring police officers to tow vehicles driven by those that are cited for drunk driving.


Washington State’s DUI impound law went into effect last Friday, requiring police officers to tow vehicles driven by those that are cited for drunk driving.

The towing company must hold the vehicle for a minimum of 12 hours. However, there are three exceptions in which the vehicle could be reclaimed within 12 hours of the arrest.

The first is if the owner of the vehicle is not the arrested person, the owner can retrieve the vehicle at the towing company.

The second is if the vehicle is co-owned by another person, the person that was not arrested can pick up the vehicle at the towing company.

Finally, if the vehicle in question is used for commercial or farming purposes, the legal owner can retrieve the car at the site of the arrest, as long as the owner is not the person that was arrested.

The DUI impound law was approved by the 2011 legislature, in an effort to provide police officers with the ability to keep those suspected of drunk driving away from their vehicles while the effects of alcohol wear off.

Before the DUI impound law was put into place, the courts would not allow police officers to impound vehicles without the owner’s permission. In addition, many jurisdictions lack the jail space to hold those arrested for DUI.

Because police officers could not impound the vehicles of those arrested for DUI, they would allow a sober family member or friend to pick up the vehicle. Unfortunately, when the person charged with DUI was not held in custody, the protocol allowed these individuals to get back behind the wheel of their car before they had enough time to sober up.

“This is about making sure that impaired drivers don’t return to their cars and drive again before they’ve sobered up,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “This isn’t about trying to punish someone for driving drunk. If they’re found guilty that will become the court’s job.”

In 2007, a female driver that was cited by police hours earlier for DUI returned to her car and got into an auto accident. The person that she hit was seriously injured and filed a lawsuit against Whatcom County and the State Patrol; the victim in the suit was awarded $5 million.

States have been enacting a number of laws to punish those that are arrested and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In addition to impounding vehicles, many states require people that are found guilty of DUI to pay various fines, do jail time, commit to several hours of community service, use an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle, and lose their licenses. These penalties can make it difficult for those charged with a DUI to maintain their jobs and livelihood.

If you have been charged with drunk driving, it is in your best interest to contact a qualified DUI attorney to represent you in your case. An attorney may be able to get your charge reduced or overturned.

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