Under 18 U.S.C. § 511, it is a federal offense to knowingly alter, remove, deface, destroy, or falsify the identification number of a motor vehicle. This statute is designed to prevent and punish the tampering with vehicle identification to deter and detect vehicle theft and related crimes. If a vehicle is impounded and an inventory search reveals tampered identification numbers, this could lead to federal charges in addition to any state charges related to the DUI/DWI offense.
23 U.S.C. § 164 requires states to enact and enforce laws that provide minimum penalties for individuals who have been convicted of repeat DUI/DWI offenses. One of the penalties that states may impose is the impoundment or immobilization of the offender's vehicle. This federal statute incentivizes states to adopt such measures by conditioning certain federal highway funds on the implementation of these minimum penalty laws. The statute is relevant to the impoundment and potential forfeiture of vehicles following a DUI/DWI arrest, particularly for repeat offenders.
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. It requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before conducting a search, with certain exceptions. One such exception is a search incident to a lawful arrest, which allows officers to search a vehicle without a warrant if it is contemporaneous with the arrest of an occupant. Another exception is the inventory search, which permits officers to search an impounded vehicle to catalog its contents and protect against claims of lost, stolen, or damaged property. Evidence found during these warrantless searches can be admissible in court if the searches are conducted in accordance with legal standards.
18 U.S.C. § 981 provides the authority for the federal government to seize property involved in certain crimes and subject it to civil forfeiture. This includes vehicles used to commit or facilitate the commission of offenses for which the vehicle's owner may be criminally liable. While DUI/DWI offenses are typically state crimes, in certain circumstances (such as on federal property or in cases involving federal law), federal civil forfeiture could apply. The statute allows for the seizure of property without compensation to the owner if the property is proven to be connected to a crime.