In Illinois, vehicle impoundment can happen for a wide variety of reasons. The vehicle owner does not need to be present in some cases, but can still be held accountable. No matter the reason, retrieving your car from the impound lot is expensive and time-consuming. It may even require a court hearing. Browsing Illinois Statute 625 5/4-203 regarding the removal, towing, and hauling away of vehicles is daunting, so we’ve outlined the basic facts of vehicle impoundment below.
If you or someone you know has had their vehicle impounded, contact a criminal defense attorney for guidance on what to do next.
What is vehicle impoundment?
This happens when the government legally takes control of a car because a law or regulation has been broken. It’s like sending a stray dog to a dog pound.
Where does the car go?
When a car is impounded, it is moved to an impound or tow lot. If you are present when your vehicle is seized, you may be given the location right then and there where your car is headed. If you are not present, you will be notified via mail (or sometimes in person) of the impoundment with a number to call for its location. The particular offense that led to impoundment may determine the car’s destination.
Why are cars impounded?
Cars can be sent to impound for many different offenses. Basically, if the vehicle is involved in any illegal action taken by its driver, passengers, or owner, it faces impoundment. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Driving under the influence of drugs
- Driving recklessly
- Driving with firearms in the vehicle
- Driving without a license
- Involvement in a police chase
- Involvement in prostitution or sex crimes
- Involvement in drag racing
There are also instances when a vehicle is taken to impound without the driver, owner, or any passengers present. Examples include:
- An abandoned vehicle
- A vehicle with three or more unpaid parking tickets
- A stolen vehicle
- A vehicle needed for evidence in a crime
What happens after impoundment?
To retrieve a vehicle in impoundment, the car’s owner must first pay several fines:
- Bond/impound fee
- Towing fee
- Storage fee (usually per day)
- Any fees associated with unpaid tickets
These fees can quickly add up to several hundred dollars or more. Some cities, like Aurora, Illinois, require payments to be made in cash. The owner must also prove they own the car before it is released, which typically includes proof of auto insurance. If a car is not collected or spoken for within 21 days, it’s possible the vehicle will be resold at auction.
However, if a person believes their car should not have been impounded or was seized in error, they can request a court hearing. This has to be done within 15 days of the impoundment notification being mailed out, according to the City of Chicago Vehicle Impoundment Fact Sheet. (A person can still request a hearing after they’ve retrieved their vehicle from the impound lot.)
While having your car impounded isn’t itself a crime, the reasons a vehicle goes to impoundment are almost always due to illegal activity. So, in addition to the impound fees and time spent getting the car back, a person often faces criminal charges for the instigating incident.
If you or someone you know is facing a vehicle impoundment hearing or needs legal assistance with an offense that led to vehicle impoundment, contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates for a free consultation.