Getting arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is always a stressful and confusing experience. Many people who get arrested for DWI in Texas do not know what to expect. For this reason, many Texans wonder, “Can the police impound my car after a DWI arrest?”
While you probably have a lot on your mind when you get arrested for impaired driving, the last thing you need is to worry about vehicle impoundment after a DWI arrest.
Whether or not the police will impound your car depends on the specific circumstances of your DWI case. If you were arrested for driving while impaired, contact a Coryell County criminal defense attorney to speak about your case and identify the best defenses to DWI charges.
Can the Police Impound Your Car After a DWI Arrest?
The short answer is, “Yes, the police can impound your car if you get arrested for drunk driving.” What happens to your car after a DWI arrest depends on the circumstances of your case.
In Texas, police officers have the discretion to decide what to do with your car after a DWI arrest:
Let your passenger operate your vehicle if the passenger has a valid driver’s license and is not intoxicated;
Wait for the arrival of your family member or friend to get the vehicle; or
Arrange to have your car towed and impounded.
The police must use reasonable discretion when determining the most appropriate option for handling your vehicle after a DWI arrest. Often, police officers choose to impound the intoxicated driver’s car immediately after the arrest without giving the driver the opportunity to call their friends or relatives.
However, police officers are legally required to ensure that they exercise reasonable discretion when deciding what to do with your car following the arrest. If you feel that the officers’ actions were unreasonable, you should contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.
If the police officer decided to impound your vehicle when it was reasonable to wait for your friends or family members or let your passenger drive your car, it could help your attorney build a successful defense strategy in your DWI case.
When Are the Police Required to Impound a Vehicle During a DWI Arrest?
Even if your passenger is sober and licensed to drive or your friend/family member is available to come and get your car right away, the police are still required to impound your vehicle under the following circumstances:
You caused injury or death to another individual when driving while impaired;
You were charged with a felony during your DWI arrest;
Your vehicle is deemed a safety hazard if it remains at the scene; or
Your car is deemed undrivable due to severe damage.
Consult with a lawyer to determine if the police were actually required to impound your vehicle in your specific DWI case in Texas.
When Can I Get My Vehicle Back if It Was Impounded?
If your vehicle is not treated as evidence in your DWI case, you will be able to get your car back immediately after your release from custody. In order to get your impounded vehicle back, all you need is to pay the necessary fees.
However, if you caused bodily injury or death to other persons or your DWI case involves felony charges, the state might keep your vehicle as evidence for the pending legal case. In that case, you will not be able to get your vehicle back until the case is resolved.
Depending on the complexity and circumstances of your DWI case, it could take months or even years to get your car back after it was impounded. Even if your case is dismissed, the police will have up to 90 days to process the dismissal before your vehicle is returned to you.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Your Vehicle Out of Impound?
When the police impound your car after your arrest, you will have to pay all the necessary fees, including the cost of towing and storage fees, to get your vehicle out of impound.
The cost of towing varies from $250 to $500, while storage fees usually amount to $20 per day.
Can the Police Lawfully Search My Impounded Vehicle?
If you have been arrested for driving while impaired, and the police impounded your vehicle, you might wonder, “Can the police lawfully search my impounded car?”
Generally, the search incident to arrest (SITA) principle applies to this situation. It means that the police can lawfully perform a warrantless search of an arrested person and their vehicle to:
Search for weapons to protect themselves; or
Search for evidence to preserve it and prevent its destruction.
However, the SITA principle can only apply when the arrest itself is lawful. If the police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you for DWI, they cannot legally search your car even if it is impounded. In that case, anything the police find in the vehicle cannot be admissible as evidence in your criminal case.
In addition, the SITA principle does not give the police authority to search your home unless they have a warrant. The legal principle is limited to searching the property within the control of the arrested person at the time of the arrest.
For this reason, if you got arrested outside your vehicle and you did not have control of the vehicle at the time of the arrest, the police would not lawfully search your car even if your car was a few feet away from the location of the arrest.
If the police searched your impounded vehicle after a DWI arrest, but you do not think that the search was lawful, consult with an attorney right away.
Call a Coryell County Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Consultation
If you have been arrested for DWI, it is in your best interest to contact a knowledgeable attorney to identify the appropriate defense strategy to fight against the charges.