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My car just got impounded, what do I have to do to get it out?

It will depend upon your state's laws and why your car was impounded as to what procedures will need to be followed in order to get your car out of the impoundment lot.

For example in California a vehicle can be impounded if you or another individual driving your vehicle has a suspended license, a revoked license, or does not have a valid license and also if the car is uninsured.

According to the CHP normally the vehicle will be impounded for 30 calendar days. The registered owner will have to pay the towing and the 30-day storage fee to get the vehicle back at the end of this period.

The City of Ventura, California notes that depending upon the reason for the tow, an impounded vehicle can be held for up to 30-days. Hearings are held on vehicles that are impounded for 30 days. So depending upon the state your vehicle was towed in you may be able to request a hearing.

In Ventura, CA to obtain a release, the vehicle's registered owner must have:

  • Current registration for the vehicle
  • A valid driver's license
  • No outstanding parking violations

Plus one must also bring payment of the Vehicle Release Fees as follows:

  • $195 for DUI Arrest.
  • $150 for Abandoned Vehicle.
  • $100 for all other towed vehicles.

Normally if the registered owner does not have a valid driver's license, a person with a valid license must be present with the vehicle owner. In California the law states that no license, no release - no exceptions. Ventura's police site notes that if the registered owner is in custody, or is otherwise unable to pick up the impounded vehicle, he/she may authorize the vehicle's release to another person. The person must have a note signed by the registered owner authorizing the vehicle's release and a photocopy of the registered owner's driver's license or other acceptable identification; the signatures on the note and the photocopied ID must match.

If a vehicle has been towed for violation of 72-hour parking, the registered owner must pay a fine of $150. All other requirements for vehicle release - current registration, valid driver's license, no outstanding parking tickets - remain the same.

In situations like this CA court cases have concluded that when the owner of a vehicle has been arrested for driving without a valid license and the vehicle has been impounded, the owner may be found guilty of grand theft for removing the vehicle from the impounding agency's custody without permission or authority prior to the expiration of the 30-day impoundment period.

Another example is in Ohio, for instance Summit Country police state that if a vehicle has been towed for a traffic violation which includes an administrative suspension, the release must be obtained from the Sheriff's Patrol Bureau. Any release for a towed vehicle, not under suspension, may be obtained from the local Sheriff's post. In all instances, you must show proof of ownership, insurance and identification. Once a release is obtained, present it to the impound lot operator for a release.

The procedures differ in each state, as do the documents that you will need to show to a hearing board, court, law enforcement or whoever may have authority over the release of the vehicle. To find out about your specific situation contact the impound lot to see if they can advise you who you need see in order to get your car out.


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