A motor vehicle may sometimes be confiscated, towed, and impounded (held at an impound car lot) when it is involved in a traffic or parking violation.
For example, 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.