How to Find Out if Your Car Was Impounded by Police

If you hadn't thought to find a cheap auto insurance company, a car impounded by police could inspire you to do so. If your car is impounded, you can find out by calling the police station or parking authority, but the assortment of fines and impound fees could push drivers to shop online for cheaper insurance. A car impounded by police for minor traffic violations can only be collected if the driver can show proof of insurance, a valid driver's license, and up-to-date registration.

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Written by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
Licensed Agent Cynthia Lanctot

UPDATED: Jun 3, 2022

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A Concise Overview

  • Drivers should review their state’s rules about why a car can be impounded
  • Impound lots typically charge a daily impound fee
  • Drivers can call their local police station and parking authority to find out if their car was impounded

Nothing can quite compete with the sickening feeling of discovering that your car has been moved without your consent. Of course, before you make the call to report that your car was stolen, you should first check to see if it was impounded by the police. While that poses its own set of problems, it’s far easier to get your car out of an impound lot than it is to get it back from a car thief.

Hopefully, you have affordable auto insurance because towing and impound fees are expensive. You’ll need to pay fees and, depending upon the reasons for your car being impounded, you could see an increase in your rates. Now, if you don’t have insurance and are desperately conducting Internet searches for “get a car out of impound without insurance,” you’re out of luck.

You need to have a valid insurance policy to get your car back. Also, your license and registration must be in good standing.

Your car can be impounded for any number of moving violations that your insurance company can hold against you. So if you once had cheap auto insurance rates, a car impounded by police could change that. Thankfully, if you find yourself in a similar situation, you can shop online to find the best policy for your coverage and financial needs.

Keep reading to learn how to find out if your car was impounded by local law enforcement and how to get it back into your possession.

Enter your ZIP code to get free insurance quotes if your car was impounded by police and now you are looking for cheaper insurance rates.

How can drivers find out if their car was impounded by the police?

Before you worry about what will happen with your auto insurance company, a car impounded by police officers is a challenge in its own right that must be solved. For instance, if your car was impounded without your knowledge, you first need to confirm that your car was impounded. If you want to find out if your car was impounded by the police, follow these steps:

  • Call your local police station
  • Give the on-duty clerk your car’s VIN and license plate
  • Request that the clerk check to find out if your car was impounded

If the clerk is unable to find your car using the police station’s impounded-vehicle locator, you should then call your local parking authority. You will need to share the same information with them as well.

Now, if you had been stopped by a police officer on the road and had your vehicle impounded then, the officer will usually give you the information of the company that is towing your car. In that scenario, you will be able to call the tow company to find out where your car was towed.

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Why would the police impound a car?

My car was impounded, but I wasn’t the driver — why did this happen?

A car can be impounded for many reasons. For example, if the car registration was expired, your car could be impounded. If you were pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your car could be towed off to the impound lot.

Your car could also be impounded if it:

  • Was involved in vehicular manslaughter
  • Was parked illegally
  • Was abandoned
  • Was involved in a case of reckless driving
  • Was being driven without an active insurance policy

Different states have different justifications for towing a driver’s car to the impound lot. Knowing the rules of your state could save you a lot of time and money. Below, you can review what could get your car impounded in your home state:

Vehicle Impoundment and Confiscation Laws by State

StateVehiclce Impoundment and Confiscation Laws
AlabamaA vehicle may be impounded if a driver is found to be driving with a revoked license or driving with a license suspended because of a DWI-related offense or refuses a breath test. However, the law provides that the vehicle will be released to the registered owner if the offender is not the owner. Further, police can release the vehicle, rather than impounding it, if it is determined that the driving is due to an emergency. This law does not seem to be aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by separating offenders from their vehicles.
AlaskaThe municipalities may enact ordinances to impound or confiscate motor vehicles for violations of local DWI offenses or refusal of chemical test laws for first and subsequent offenses. However, these laws are not mandatory.
ArizonaUnder Arizona’s temporary vehicle impoundment law, the offender’s vehicle may be immediately impounded for 30 days if the driver is arrested for any of the following offenses: (1) DWR for any reason; (2) DWS where the suspension was based on driving under the influence; (3) DWS where the suspension was based on a drunk-driving offense; or (4) DWS where the suspension was based on the frequency of traffic law violation convictions. The vehicle may be released before 30 days if the offender’s driving privileges have been reinstated or if the offender’s spouse enters a five-year agreement with the state to not to allow an unlicensed driver to operate the vehicle.
CaliforniaCalifornia has two vehicle impoundment laws. The first law states that a vehicle owned and driven by an offender may be impounded up to 30 days for a first or second DWI offense and up to 90 days for third and subsequent offenses, if the offense is committed within five years of a prior offense. This first law prevents the vehicle from being impounded if it is the only vehicle available to the family or if another person has a community-property interest in the vehicle. The second law states that the vehicle owned and driven by the offender may be impounded for up to six months for a first DWI offense and up to 12 months for a subsequent DWI offense. We found no information on reasons one law might be enforced rather than the other. There is no mention of laws concerning chemical test refusals.
ConnecticutConnecticut has a vehicle impoundment law. The vehicle may be impounded for refusing a chemical test, which is a criminal offense and a felony DWI for a third or subsequent DWI offense. An ALR suspension counts as a prior DWI offense. There is also limited vehicle impoundment of 48 hours if a driver is arrested for drinking and driving with a suspended or revoked license. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders.
Washington D.C.The District of Columbia also has a limited vehicle impoundment law, under which impoundment is limited to 24 hours. However, the vehicle may be released to a legally licensed driver.
FloridaFlorida has a vehicle impoundment law, under which the vehicle that is used and owned in a first DWI offense may be impounded for ten days. This action may not be concurrent with probation or imprisonment. For a second DWI offense within five years, the vehicle can be impounded for 30 days and, for a third DWI offense within ten years, for 90 days. This applies to all vehicles owned by the offender and may not be concurrent with probation or imprisonment. However, unlike first DWI offenses, it must be concurrent with the driver’s license revocation. For first, second, and third DWI offenses, these actions are conditions of mandatory probation; however, the court may decide not to order vehicle impoundment if the family has no other means of transportation. There also is a limited vehicle impoundment law for a DWI offense if, at the time of the DWI offense, the offender was driving with a license suspended for a prior DWI offense. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders.
IllinoisIf the DWI offender is the registered owner, then the vehicle can be impounded for 24 hours for a second DWI offense or 48 hours for a third DWI offense. The vehicle may be released sooner to a competent, licensed driver with the owner’s consent. There also is a limited vehicle impoundment law, under which law enforcement can impound a driver’s vehicle for not more than 12 hours following a DWI arrest. Limited impoundment may be used if the officer reasonably believes that the arrested offender will commit another DWI offense if released. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders.
IowaFor a second or subsequent DWI offense, the vehicle owned and used by the offender can be impounded or immobilized and the license plate seized (and registration confiscated if the vehicle is in custody) by law enforcement authorities. New registration plates are issued only at the end of the driver’s license revocation period or 180 days, whichever is longer.
KannsasFor DWI violations, judges, at their discretion, may order vehicle impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle used in the offense, for up to one year. The offender pays all costs. Judges must take into account hardship to family. This law went into effect on July 1, 2003.
MaineMaine also has a temporary vehicle impoundment law. The vehicle used in a DWI offense or for DWS for a prior DWI offense may be seized; however, the vehicle may be released after eight hours. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders.
MarylandThe vehicle can be impounded or immobilized (by suspending license plates) for not more than 180 days if the driver’s license is currently suspended for a prior alcohol offense.
MinnesotaUnder Minnesota’s vehicle impoundment law, a vehicle may be impounded after a DWI arrest and released to the vehicle owner with proof of a valid driver’s license and insurance. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders.
MississippiFor a second or subsequent DWI offenses, all vehicles owned by the offender must be impounded or immobilized at the time of conviction and remain so until the license suspension has expired. If any other person must use the vehicle, an ignition interlock may be required as an alternative to impoundment or immobilization.
MissouriMissouri has a vehicle impoundment or vehicle forfeiture law; however, under Missouri law, cities with populations higher than 100,000 can make their own vehicle impoundment or forfeiture laws. The state law applies to the vehicle operated by the offender regardless of ownership; consequently, the vehicle is subject to impoundment or forfeiture if the driver has had one or more DWI offenses, including illegal per se. The vehicle also can be impounded or forfeited if the offender is driving with a license suspended for a prior DWI offense or for a DWI and involuntary manslaughter offense. Last, the vehicle can be impounded or forfeited if the driver has had two or more DWI offenses (including illegal per se) and, for either offense, had a BAC of 0.08 or greater (0.02 or greater for those under 21) or if the driver has refused to submit to a chemical test under the implied-consent law.
NebraskaAn offender who is driving with a license suspended for a prior DWI or an implied-consent conviction may have his or her vehicle impounded for not less than ten days and not longer than 30 days. An offender under 21 may have his or her vehicle impounded if he or she has a BAC of 0.02 or greater.
New JerseyAccording to Century Council (2003), New Jersey has a vehicle impoundment law under which an offender’s vehicle must be impounded for 12 hours at the time of arrest. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders. NHTSA (2003a) does not report any vehicle impoundment laws in New Jersey, which raises a question as to which source is correct.
New MexicoNew Mexico also has a vehicle immobilization law, under which a vehicle may be immobilized for 30 days if the offender was driving with a revoked license, unless immobilization poses a hardship to the family.
OregonVehicle impoundment or immobilization is limited to one year for a second or subsequent DWI offense or for driving with a suspended license. This action is at the court’s discretion and applies to all vehicles owned and used by the offender, even if not used in the offense. The offender must pay the costs of removing, storing, or immobilizing the vehicle.
VirginiaAny vehicle used in a DWI offense may be impounded or immobilized for 30 days if the offender was driving with a license suspended because of a prior DWI, an administrative per se violation, or chemical test refusal. In addition, vehicles owned by an offender may be impounded or immobilized for up to 90 days even if the vehicles were not used in the offense. There are family hardship exceptions for households with only one vehicle.
WashingtonWashington has a vehicle impoundment law. In addition to impounding the vehicle for other possible penalties for driving with a license suspended for a prior DWI conviction, authorities may also impound the vehicle for not more than 30 days on a first offense. For a second offense, the vehicle may be impounded for not more than 60 days or, for a third offense, not more than 90 days.
WisconsinThere is a policy in Wisconsin that allows temporary vehicle impoundment, as part of the immobilization process. This is not a law, just a policy, and is used only temporarily and at the discretion of officers in the field.
WyomingWyoming has a policy that allows for temporary vehicle impoundment. An offender’s vehicle may be impounded following an arrest if a sober driver is unavailable. This law seems intended to prevent the offender from operating the vehicle immediately after the drinking-and-driving offense, rather than being aimed at long-term prevention of drinking and driving by offenders.
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In some instances you may not be able to get your car back right away, for example, if there is an ongoing investigation into a case of vehicular manslaughter. However, you will be able to take steps to get your car back if it had been towed for something such as an expired registration or for being parked illegally.

If you are charged with a serious offense like reckless driving or DUI, you may be required to purchase SR-22 auto insurance on top of paying the impound costs.

How can drivers get their cars out of the impound lot?

The police impounded my car — how do I get it back?

Unlike getting online auto insurance quotes, a car impounded by the police is harder to get back into your possession. In some states, you may need to appear in court and provide proof of insurance, your driver’s license, and your current vehicle registration.

What happens if your car is impounded by police? This will vary, as all states have different rules regarding impounded cars. Carefully review all documentation you receive when your car is impounded.

What will it cost if your car is impounded by the police? Prepare to spend a lot of money to get your car back.

You will most likely shell out a few hundred dollars to cover any fines you received, towing charges, and the impound storage fees. Typically, an impound lot will charge a driver by the day, so it is in your best interest to get your car as quickly as possible.

Find Out if Your Car was Impounded by the Police: The Bottom Line

If you hadn’t thought to buy auto insurance, a car impounded by police is a good reason to do so. You won’t be able to get your car out of the impound lot without an up-to-date policy.

A car can be impounded for a variety of reasons, but if your car was impounded without your knowledge, you can find out if your car was towed by calling your local police station or parking authority.

Impound fees are charged daily and can be expensive. If your car was impounded, you should try to get your car back as quickly as possible.

If you had a car impounded by police and don’t have an active insurance policy, enter your ZIP code to get free quotes from insurance companies near you today.

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