impounded vehicle

Vehicle Impound In Arizona

Why Would the Police Impound a Vehicle?

This post is discussing Arizona state laws related to car impounds. Some cities, like Phoenix, have local laws about impound. In Arizona, the law requires the police to impound a vehicle under certain circumstances, including:

  • If the driver is driving on a suspended license.
  • If the driver has never been issued a valid driver license.
  • If the driver is required to have an ignition interlock device but does not.
  • If the driver is transporting an illegal alien.
  • If the driver is concealing an illegal alien in the the car.
  • If the car is for sale and the VIN has been destroyed, removed or altered.

You can read the statute (A.R.S. 28-3511) for more detail of the above, and some other circumstances a vehicle might be impounded that we are not covering here. A vehicle may also be impounded if the driver is charged with an extreme or aggravated DUI.

We most frequently see cars impounded for driving on a suspended license.  The scenario usually goes like this: the police officer initiates the traffic stop. Once the officer has determined that the driver is driving on a suspended license, the officer will immediately impound the vehicle. The officer will call a tow truck to come and take the vehicle. Even if the driver is not arrested and booked but instead cited and released, the vehicle will still be impounded and the hapless driver will need to find a ride home.

How Long Will the Vehicle Be Impounded?

A vehicle will be impounded for 30 days, but sometimes a driver can get the vehicle released early. See A.R.S. 28-3512. For example, if a vehicle is impounded due to a driving on a suspended license charge, the driver can get the vehicle released sooner than 30 days if the driver provides proof that his or her driving privileges have been reinstated. If the impounded vehicle did not belong to the driver who was issued the citation, the actual owner can often retrieve the vehicle from impound almost any time as long as the owner has a valid license, registration and insurance.

How Does the Owner Get the Vehicle Back?

This will vary depending on which law enforcement agency impounded the vehicle. It is always a good idea to contact the law enforcement agency that impounded the vehicle for specific instructions before attempting to retrieve the vehicle. The owner will need to provide proof of a valid driver’s license, current registration, and current insurance before the vehicle is released. The owner will also have to pay an administrative fee to the law enforcement agency, as well as storage fees to the towing company storing the vehicle. If the owner fails to retrieve their vehicle after 30 days, the towing company can apply to take title of the vehicle and sell it. If the owner cannot afford the fees to get the vehicle released, or cannot otherwise meet the requirements for the release of the vehicle, they should contact the towing company to make arrangements and try to assure the vehicle is not sold.

What If the Charges Are Dismissed?

Tough luck. The state wants its money, and the owner still owes the impound fees. Neither the courts, nor the police, nor the private company holding the vehicle cares about treating the owner fairly, as long as they are making some money in the process.

What If the Owner is Innocent?

In some rare cases, like if the vehicle was stolen, then the fees may be reduced — but usually the towing company and the law enforcement agency will expect the owner’s insurance to cover the fees, since that should be part of the owner’s coverage for stolen vehicles. Also, see above answer to “what if the charges are dismissed.”

Comments 22

  1. what if I paid the fee and paid for towing but the impound won’t bring me my car

    1. Post

      Hi Enrique,
      In my experience, you will have to engage your own tow company to transport the car if it cannot be driven; the company that towed it in the first place and then stored it is not going to bring it to you, even after you pay the tow fees and impound fees.

  2. My son bought a car on a weekend he got insurance a temporary registration & plate on line the owner kept her license plate His wife took it & got pulled over for running a stop sign she had a suspended drivers license she was arrested & the car was impounded On Monday he went to DMV & had the car put in his name when he went down to pay the impound fee they said because at the time the car was still in the old owners name he had to have her go down with him He does not know her & when he contacted her she said she doesn’t understand why she has to be involved & that she will not go with him He has thee money to pay the impound fee the towing fee & storage now but without transportation can’t even go to work & will not be able to pay $25 a day × 30 days infact at this point he’s looking at losing his job what can he do?

      1. Post

        Hi Stephanie, Unfortunately, there may not be much to do here to get the vehicle out early. The impound statute is clear that a registered owner who was not the driver may get the vehicle released early provided that they were an owner at the time of the impoundment. Because the vehicle was put in your son’s name after the impound, he cannot get it out early.

  3. My vehicle was impounded for DUI for 20 days in Scottsdale. I am seeking to try to get an early release. My question is, I have an out of state license. Would they allow me to get the vehicle out with an out of state license that is valid?

    1. Post

      An out of state license, as long as it is valid, and as long as there is no suspension of your driving privileges in Arizona, should work.

      1. Thank you for your quick response. Follow up question. They issued an AZ license and suspended that. But then issued a temporary driver permit that expires in 15 days or longer until summary review or hearing decision was made. Does that temporary driver permit allow me the privileges needed to get it out?

        1. Post

          If the police confiscated your physical license and issued you the implied consent affidavit as your temporary license, but there is not currently a suspension, you should be able to use that. You will probably need some sort of government ID to go along with it though.

          1. Okay, thank you. They did not take my out of state license. I am still in possession of that.

          2. Chris I have one follow up question if you don’t mind. Thank you for all your help thus far. My license plate is a Texas plate, which is currently on my car in Impound. On my Impound Report the “License Plate Impounded” box is checked Yes.

            On the back of the impound report it says one of the things I need if that box is checked is a new license plate. And that I must obtain one from MVD or will need to get a temporary paper plate.

            Does this apply if my license plate is an out of state plate?

        2. Post

          I don’t know for certain the answer to your question about the impounded license plate. My guess is that if they are impounding the plate, that there is some problem with the plate. If there is a problem with the plate, it would make sense that that needs to be corrected, either with a new plate or temporary plate, before you can retrieve the car. I think this would apply regardless of what state the plate was issued in.

  4. Can a car be impounded for no license plate and registration

    1. Post

      It could certainly be towed, and that would require a valid license, insurance and current registration to get it back. Unless there was something else in play, it should not be impounded.

  5. My car was impounded for 30 days but I was able to retrieve prior to 30 days. The letter from the Police stated the statue 28-3511 and the max of $15 dollars per day for storage. When I paid the fee, they charged me $32.50 per day for 11 days?? I called the towing company, he stated there was a sign outside(somewhere) that less than 30 days it’s $32.50?? I told him the letter from Police doesn’t state that, he said I can’t control what the police do.


    Thank you.

    1. Post

      That sounds pretty irritating. Unfortunately this is one of those situations where there is probably no satisfactory (cost effective) resolution. And that towing company knows it. They have drivers in a bad spot – they kidnapped their car and are holding it hostage until the fees are paid. Theoretically, you might have some civil action available, but the time and money involved with that makes it an impractical option.

  6. Is a search warrant required for Phoenix PD to impound the car I was driving on a suspended license?
    The car does not belong to me; it is part of my deceased mother’s estate. I am the executor of her estate

    1. Post

      Hi James,

      No search warrant required for a vehicle impound, but the police will “inventory” the vehicle when it is impounded.

      1. Can the police impound a car just because I was arrested? I was arrested for an outstanding warrant while walking out of a retail establishment. The business accused me of shoplifting but I was not. I was 50 yards away from my vehicle and they only found it by using my key fob and going to the vehicle.

        1. Post

          Hi Brian,
          It sounds like your car may have been towed incident to the arrest, not necessarily impounded. Have you tried to retrieve your vehicle? If it was just towed, you should be able to go get it anytime.

  7. Pingback: FTA: Failure to Appear - Traffic Law Guys | Scottsdale AZ

  8. What about the community caretaking function? Even if the law allows the impoundment, it still must be reasonable under the 4th amendment, the statute alone without more does not allow the impound unless there is something else. (impeding traffic, blocking drive ways, in a no parking zone etc. ) And if you are only given a citation and allowed to leave, then their is no government action that would make the government responsible for your car under the community caretaking function.

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