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Can Your Car Be Impounded After a Washington DUI Arrest?

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Being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington state can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. Aside from the potential criminal charges and legal consequences, many drivers may not be aware of the additional penalties they may face, such as the impoundment of their vehicle. Washington’s DUI impound law is designed to protect the public, but it also raises concerns about a person’s constitutional rights.

Washington State’s DUI Impound Law

According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.55.360, your vehicle must be impounded for a minimum of 12 hours following a DUI arrest. During these 12 hours, your vehicle can be retrieved in one of three ways:

  • If you are the owner of the vehicle and were not arrested, you may pick up the vehicle.
  • If a co-owner of the vehicle was not arrested, he or she may pick up the vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is used for farming or commercial purposes, it can be retrieved by the legal owner, as long as he or she was not arrested.

If none of these circumstances apply, your vehicle will be impounded for at least 12 hours, during which time you will not have access to it.

How Does Washington’s Impound Law Affect Your Constitutional Rights?

Washington’s DUI impound law raises concerns about a person’s constitutional rights. In one case, a defendant was stopped by a police officer for speeding and was suspected of impaired driving. The defendant was arrested, and the vehicle was impounded according to Washington state law.

However, the officer allegedly searched the vehicle after it was impounded and found drug paraphernalia. The defendant was subsequently charged with DUI and possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute.

The defendant moved to suppress this evidence, arguing that the search was unlawful and violated his constitutional rights. The trial court granted the motion, declaring the law unconstitutional. 

The Washington State Supreme Court later ruled that impoundment is only lawful if the police have reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime or if there is a reasonable justification. However, the officer must consider other alternatives before deciding to impound the vehicle.

Before RCW 46.55.360 mandates that a DUI suspect’s vehicle be impounded without considering alternatives, the court found it to be unconstitutional in this case and affirmed the suppression of the evidence.

What to Do After a DUI Arrest in Washington

If you are arrested for DUI in Washington State, it is essential to know your rights. First and foremost, you should remain silent and not answer any questions. Anything you say can be used against you in court, so it is best to avoid making any statements until you have an attorney present.

You should also comply with the police officer’s orders, including submitting to sobriety tests and providing identification. Refusing to comply with these requests can result in additional charges and penalties.

If you are taken into custody, you have the right to ask for your attorney. It is important to exercise this right and contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. Your attorney can help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and potentially negotiate a plea bargain or reduced charges.

After your arrest, do not make any statements or answer any questions from the police or investigators. Instead, contact a Tacoma criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your next steps.

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