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DUI / DWI

vehicle penalties

If the police arrest a driver for a DUI/DWI criminal offense they will often have the vehicle towed and impounded at an impound lot. In some states the vehicle can be retrieved beginning 8-24 hours following the impoundment. If there is a passenger who the police determine is sober or a friend or family member of the driver who arrives before the police have the vehicle towed such a person may be allowed to drive the vehicle from the scene of the DUI/DWI arrest.

In some states the vehicle may be confiscated and held at the impound lot for 30-90 days (forfeiture), and in some states up to 180 days. Vehicle confiscation usually occurs when the defendant has previous DUI/DWI convictions and is designed to prevent the defendant from using the vehicle to commit another DUI/DWI offense.

And in some states the driver's license plates or registration may be confiscated or subject to forfeiture upon a DUI/DWI arrest, or special license plates with numbers or stickers readily identifiable by law enforcement may be issued to the driver—providing probable cause for the vehicle to be stopped and the driver questioned if a police officer observes irregular driving.

The police may search the vehicle as a search incident to a lawful arrest—which is an exception to the general requirement that the police have a search warrant to comply with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. And if the vehicle is towed and impounded a police officer at the impound lot may perform an inventory search of the vehicle—which is also an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Any contraband the police find in such searches—such as illegal drugs or stolen goods—may subject the defendant to additional criminal charges and will be admissible in evidence against the defendant.

A driver whose vehicle is towed and impounded will be required to pay towing and storage fees to retrieve the vehicle—and depending on applicable law a vehicle that remains in an impound lot for a certain number of days (usually 30-40) may be sold at a public auction and the proceeds applied to towing and storage fees, with any remaining funds being delivered to the owner of the vehicle.

In Texas, when a driver is arrested for a DUI/DWI offense, the police may tow and impound the vehicle. If a sober passenger or a friend or family member is present and capable of driving the vehicle safely, they may be allowed to take the vehicle from the scene. Texas law allows for vehicle confiscation in cases of repeat DUI/DWI offenders, which can prevent the individual from committing further offenses. The duration of impoundment can vary, and in some cases, the vehicle may be held for an extended period. Additionally, Texas may issue special license plates or confiscate license plates or registration upon a DUI/DWI arrest, making the vehicle more identifiable to law enforcement. The police are permitted to search the vehicle incident to a lawful arrest without a warrant, and any contraband found can lead to additional charges. If the vehicle is towed and impounded, the driver will be responsible for towing and storage fees. If the vehicle is not retrieved within a certain period, typically 30-40 days, it may be sold at public auction, with proceeds going towards the fees and any surplus returned to the owner.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

18 U.S.C. § 511 - Altering or Removing Motor Vehicle Identification Numbers
This statute is relevant as it addresses the criminality of altering or removing vehicle identification numbers, which could be pertinent in cases where a vehicle is impounded following a DUI/DWI arrest and later subjected to an inventory search.

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 - Minimum Penalties for Repeat Offenders for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence
This statute is relevant as it mandates minimum penalties for repeat DUI/DWI offenders, which can include vehicle impoundment or immobilization.

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.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment is relevant to the topic as it provides the basis for the legal standards governing searches and seizures, including the search of a vehicle incident to arrest and inventory searches at impound lots.

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 - Civil Forfeiture
This statute is relevant as it outlines the federal civil forfeiture process, which may apply to vehicles used to commit federal offenses, including certain DUI/DWI offenses under federal jurisdiction.

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.