Vehicle Impound and Immobilization

James Parker
March 23, 2022

What Is Vehicle Impound and Immobilization?

Vehicle impound or immobilization is a penalty issued by a court for an infraction or series of infractions. Though they often have a similar effect, preventing a driver from operating their vehicle, and are accrued through similar methods, traffic infractions, vehicle impounding and vehicle immobilization are implemented in very different ways.

Vehicle immobilization is the less inconvenient of the two penalties. When a court orders a vehicle be immobilized the defendant must hire an immobilization company to install an immobilization device. The company may install a steering wheel lock, which prevents the wheel from turning, or a parking boot, which prevents one or more wheels from turning. 

The purpose of these devices is to dissuade the use of the vehicle during the immobilization period and, if the defendant insists on using the vehicle anyway, rendering it inoperable if the defendant chooses to ignore the order. While they must be installed and uninstalled, they can also remain on the defendant’s premises which may bring peace of mind to the state of the vehicle while it is not in use.

Vehicle impoundment can be both more expensive and more nerve wracking. When a vehicle is ordered to be impounded a separate entity, either a private impound lot or the state, takes possession of the vehicle for the court-ordered period.

During this period, the driver is not allowed to be near the vehicle. Additionally, they must pay whatever entity is maintaining custody of the vehicle per day.

In the event where losing vehicle privileges will cause unnecessary hardship, the driver may petition the court for the right to keep their vehicle in exchange for harshly limited driving privileges. Depending on the severity of the infraction and the case law, the court may decide to grant or deny the motion. 

Key Takeaways

  • Vehicle impoundment and immobilization are punishments levied by the court for criminal traffic infractions.
  • Vehicle impoundment requires the driver to pay for a public or private entity to take possession of the vehicle for a set period while immobilization simply requires that an immobilization device be installed on the vehicle, potentially keeping it at the residence of the defendant.
  • In DUI proceedings, impoundment or immobilization may be considered to be a mandatory consequence.
  • If you have been charged with a DUI and are facing immobilization or impoundment of your vehicle, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by leveraging experience and expert testimony.

Vehicle Impound, Immobilization, and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charges 

Drivers charged with driving while under the influence can find themselves in serious danger of losing not just their driving privileges, but their vehicle. Some states have mandatory penalties for DUI charges that include compulsory impounding or immobilization if the defendant is found guilty. In addition to losing driving privileges, impoundment and immobilization can have long-term effects on the defendant’s property.

If a vehicle has been immobilized in a space where it cannot stay for an extended period of time, then the court may require the vehicle towed at the defendant’s expense. Both towing and the installation of devices like a parking boot come with some occasional risks of damage to the vehicle. For example, a tow truck can cause extra strain to a vehicle’s engine, gearbox, suspension, and more. 

These damages could impair the future life expectancy of the vehicle or, if the tow truck were to get into an accident, render the vehicle completely inoperable. Unfortunately, attempting to receive compensation for this claim would be difficult and involve lengthy legal proceedings. This means that even if justice were assured, the penalties of not having a vehicle for transportation would be felt immediately and continue until the assumed verdict allowed the individual to purchase a new vehicle.

Impounding a vehicle can likewise be risky. While most impound lots are monitored, there are still numerous reports of theft and damage occurring to vehicles while they have been impounded. These damages are only recognized once the owner returns and finds their vehicle has been damaged. Additionally, if the vehicle has been publicly impounded, then the process of recovering damages may involve filing suit against the government itself. This is often a frustrating and lengthy process that can be very costly and ultimately fruitless.

For this reason, the best option when a defendant is charged with a DUI is to contact a DUI attorney and explore options to avoid a state’s mandatory impounding and immobilization clauses or earn an acquittal. This can be accomplished by a number of methods ranging from excluding evidence in motion practice, to pleading down the charges to ones without such harsh mandatory penalties like reckless driving. 

Bottom Line

If you have been charged with a DUI and wish to retain access to your vehicle, you will need the help of a DUI attorney. An experienced DUI attorney can use experience, trial tactics, and expert witnesses to minimize the damage of DUI charges on your life, including the potential restoration of your vehicle privileges.

A DUI attorney can devote their full attention to negotiating the terms of your case including the exclusion of unfair evidence and the issuance of temporary driving privileges. For the best possible outcome for your case, a DUI attorney should be considered.

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