What to Expect When a Vehicle Has Been Impounded by the Police

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Police can tow a car if the passengers are arrested, when a stolen vehicle is recovered, when the people in a car are suspected of illegal activity or if the car has accumulated too many parking tickets. The vehicle's owner is responsible for getting the vehicle out of the impound even if he was not driving and even if he didn't cause the vehicle to be impounded.


The owner of the vehicle is responsible for submitting required documents before a car can be released to him. Required documents vary from city to city and county to county. For example, Plymouth, Michigan, requires car owners to bring their driver’s license, vehicle registration and a release form obtained from the Police Department. Another city might not require a vehicle release form.


A fee is charged to have a car released. Fees accumulate daily regardless of the circumstances. To get your vehicle back from the facility, you will have to pay the fee in full. The longer you wait, the higher the fee.

More Consequences

If the owner doesn’t pick up the vehicle in a specified amount of time, the car can be auctioned at a sheriff's or police auction. Some jurisdictions give the owner 90 days; others allow the car to sit in their impound for a year. In its monthly auctions, Ann Arbor, Michigan, starts the bidding at the amount of the towing and storage charges due from the owner.

Personal Property

The law requires the police to protect your personal property in the car while the car is in their care. You can opt to get your personal property and return later to retrieve the car. New York City requires owners to fill out a property release form to retrieve personal property. It doesn’t consider anything attached to the car (inside or outside) to be personal property.