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What Happens to a Vehicle After DC DUI Stop

After a person is arrested and charged with driving under the influence, their car may be kept in a number of different locations. In most instances, the arresting officers will park the individual’s car on the side of the street so that the individual may retrieve the vehicle after being released from the police station. If the car is not in a safe location, the officers may drive the vehicle to the police station, where the individual may retrieve it upon release.

In the event that a person has been arrested for a DUI following a traffic stop, their car might be towed to an impound lot or a body shop so that they can make arrangements to have the car fixed before getting it back.

In most situations, a person who has been arrested for driving under the influence gets their car back before the initial court date and, typically, the car can be retrieved very shortly after their arrest. It can be helpful to consult a DC DUI lawyer if there are any issues with retrieving their car.

Consequences of Impoundment

In the event that a car is impounded, police officers do have the ability to complete an inventory search of that vehicle. Although the official purpose of an inventory search is simply to log the contents of a car prior to impoundment, police officers are permitted to seize any allegedly illegal items found in the car. The owner of the car can then be criminally charged for any alleged contraband discovered during the inventory search.

Typically, cars parked on the road after a DUI arrest are not searched. However, officers do have the constitutional authority to search cars impounded after a DUI.

Discovery of Illegal Substances

If an officer conducts a search of a vehicle that was driven by a person who was arrested for driving under the influence, the driver of the vehicle can be criminally charged for any illegal items found inside of the car.

If an officer finds controlled substances or drugs when searching the car, the consequences depend on what is found. A small amount of marijuana is legal to possess in the District of Columbia. If the amount is less than two ounces; most likely there will be no additional charges. When open containers of alcohol are found in the car that can result in an additional charge. Finding other substances such as cocaine, heroin, or other drugs can result in additional criminal charges.

Such charges may increase the possible penalties the person might face beyond the penalties available for a driving under the influence charge. If a person were to get arrested for driving under the influence, and, upon conducting a search of the vehicle, the police discover an unlicensed or unregistered firearm in the car, then the driver of the car may face a charge of illegal possession of a firearm in addition to the driving under the influence charge.

Car Searches

With an intoxicated driving charge, officers at the DUI stop must have probable cause to search the car on scene. An inventory search is less typical and takes place after the car is impounded. However, that is not likely in a DUI case.

When controlled substances or other illegal items are found inside the car during the search, additional charges could be brought by the Office of the Attorney General that handles the DC DUI case or by the US Attorney’s Office.

When the Vehicle is Used as Evidence

Most of the time the police and prosecutors do not need to keep a vehicle as evidence because the vehicle is usually not admitted as evidence in a DC DUI trial. evidence can usually be maintained by taking photographs, open containers of alcohol, and drugs or other intoxicating substances.

In the event that the police or prosecutors make a claim that they need to keep the vehicle as evidence, a DUI lawyer in Washington who is representing the individual in their criminal case can also seek to have the vehicle returned to them.

Retrieving Your Vehicle

In the event that a person’s car is impounded after an arrest for driving under the influence, they will receive a tow receipt upon release from the police station. The tow receipt will include the address where the car is located. To retrieve the car, the individual must bring the tow receipt and a valid government issued ID to the address listed. Sometimes, they need to bring a release that allows the car to be taken out of the lot. Generally, an individual will not need the assistance of a lawyer in order to retrieve the vehicle from the impound lot.

Role of a Lawyer

An impounded car can be searched even if the basis for the driver’s arrest was simply driving under the influence. Having a lawyer while facing driving under the influence charges can help an individual to explore the possibility that their car may have been searched illegally and, if it was, that any alleged contraband found in the car could be used as evidence.

When the car is at a tow lot or impound lot, the defense attorney might go and document the condition of the car. Police are experts at taking a look at the car if there was an accident in the DUI incident.  An attorney in a DUI case may be able to help a person retrieve their car when it is impounded but is not needed for evidence. If it is used for evidence, sometimes, the car must remain for the rest of the case. If the car can be documented by the police and thereby the defense then potentially, the car might be released.

Contact an Attorney

A lawyer would not only know the laws regarding driving under the influence in the district but would also be familiar with the laws regarding the legality of certain searches and how such legalities may affect their constitutional rights. Any search conducted in violation of an individual’s right to be free of unreasonable search and seizures without a warrant could result in illegally obtained evidence being thrown out of court.

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