What Happens to Your Car Following a DC DUI Arrest

When someone is arrested for a DUI, the police decide on a case-by-case basis what to do with their car. The police are usually reasonable with regard to how they treat a person’s car. Often the police try to put the individual’s car after a DUI arrest in a place that is well lit, is not going to be broken into, and will not receive additional parking tickets.

A DUI lawyer plays no role in helping a person retrieve their car in DC after their arrest.

Options Available to Police

The police can impound it, which can create a problem for the person who is charged with driving drunk because they have to come back to get it and must pay a fee. This is usually not the route the police take.  If there is an accident, the car will be towed and taken to a tow lot.

Sometimes the police move the car to a parking facility and let the person know where it is. However, the police may just leave the car on the street depending upon where it is located. The police may move a car because the parking space will become a no-parking zone during rush hour in the morning.

Finally, the police may drive the individual’s car back to the police station after the DUI arrest and park it there so the person can get it when they are released.

At a Tow Lot

When a person’s car was taken to a tow lot, they need to make sure they have a number of items on them when picking the car up. These include:

  • Personal identification
  • Proof of ownership
  • A copy of the car registration
  • Proof of insurance
  • Funds to pay any tow lot fees

When the car is towed or when the police release the person, the individual will receive a document called a tow sheet. They should bring that document as well when they go to retrieve their car.

Vehicle Searches

When a person’s car is impounded, it can be searched to inventory the items in the vehicle. That means any items found in the vehicle as a result of an inventory search can potentially be used as evidence against the person.

If a person has unregistered or unlicensed weapons in the car and the car is towed and impounded, the person can be charged for those items.

In most DUI cases, vehicles are not towed and impounded. Most of the time, they are left on the street wherever the car was stopped to be picked up by the person the next day.

Aside from an inventory search, cars that are pulled over cannot be searched on the street without a search warrant. However, if there are any illegal items in the vehicle that can be seen from the outside the car, the car can be searched. Any illegal items that are found as a result of the search are seized.

When the car is left on the street, after the driver is arrested for DUI, the car can only be searched in a very limited number of circumstances. If there is an illegal item visible from outside the car such as a gun on the passenger seat, the car can be searched and the gun is seized along with any other items found as a result of the search.

The police cannot automatically search the entirety of a vehicle because a person is stopped for a DUI. If, however, a car is seized and impounded as a result of the DUI, the car can be searched to inventory the items inside the car. If illegal items are found as a result of that inventory search, the person can be charged with the possession of those items.

Additional Charges

If during the police officer’s search of the vehicle, after the person is arrested for DUI, illegal substances are found, the type of substance determines how the person is prosecuted. An open container of alcohol is an additional charge put on the person’s DUI case handled by the Office of the Attorney General.

If the officer finds a gun or cocaine, those are entirely different cases filed against the person in addition to the DUI case.

Prosecuting the Case

The District is not a state or a county and it has an interesting prosecutorial system. The United States Attorney’s Office in DC handles federal cases and the bulk of the criminal cases in DC Superior Court. DUIs are one of the few adult crimes that the Office of the Attorney General of DC prosecutes.

When someone is pulled over and arrested for DUI and that is the only charge they get, it is handled by the Office of the Attorney General. There is only one case, the District of Columbia versus the defendant and it is handled entirely by the Office of the Attorney General.