6.120 - Impounding Vehicles

Effective Date: 12/01/2015

6.120-POL

This policy applies when impounding vehicles pursuant to investigations, arrests, and recoveries. Officers are encouraged to consult the Case Assignment Matrix when determining which detective unit will conduct follow-up on an impounded vehicle.

1. Officers Consider Alternatives to Impound

Officers may leave a vehicle at the scene of the incident if not needed for police purposes. The vehicle may be:

- Legally parked and secured at the scene, with the owner’s permission,

- Released to the owner, or

- Privately towed at the owner’s expense.

Officers are not required to exhaust all possible alternatives to impound and are not required to wait an unreasonable amount of time for alternatives to be carried out.

2. SECTOR Trained Officers May Use the Electronic Tow/Impound Record, As Appropriate

See 15.380 - SECTOR

Officers use the Vessel, Watercraft, or Obstruction Theft and Impound Report (form 5.42) to impound boats.

Officers shall include a specific reason for impound on the tow/impound record.

Department personnel shall not use parking tickets for impounds.

3.Officers Impound Vehicles When Arresting Drivers for Certain Crimes

Upon arrest of a driver for the crime of DUI or Physical Control, officers must impound the suspect’s vehicle pursuant to RCW 46.55.360.

See 6.120-TSK-2 Impounding a Vehicle for DUI Arrests

Exception: If the vehicle is a commercial vehicle (as defined by RCW 46.04.140) or a farm transport vehicle (as defined by RCW 46.55.360) and the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, the officer may release it to the owner, if reasonable to do so and only if the owner was not in it at the time of the stop.

Pursuant to RCW 9A.88.140, officers shall impound a vehicle if the driver is arrested for:

- Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor

- Promoting Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor

- Promoting Travel for Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor

See 6.120-TSK-5 Impounding Vehicles for Sexual Abuse of a Minor

4. Officers May Impound Vehicles With Prior Notice

A vehicle may be impounded when it is in violation of any law, abandoned, or mechanically unsafe, and after 24 hours notice has been given, pursuant to SMC 11.30.060 – “When a vehicle may be impounded after notice”.

If none of the conditions in SMC 11.30.060 are met, a vehicle may be impounded after 72 hours notice has been given under SMC 11.72.440 – “Parking Enforcement”.

See 6.120-TSK-3 Impounding a Vehicle on a 72 Hour Notice

5. Officers May Impound Vehicles Without Prior Notice

A vehicle may be impounded with or without citation or prior notice if it falls within a category defined in SMC 11.30.040.

6. Officer Inventory Vehicles Prior to Impound

Unless a vehicle is impounded on an investigatory hold, officers shall inspect and inventory items of value within the vehicle using the Washington State Impound/Tow Record.

7. Officers Exhaust Reasonable Alternatives Prior to Impounding Vehicles Operated by Drivers Without a Valid Driver's License or With Suspended (DWLS) or Revoked Licenses

Officers shall employ immediate and reasonable alternatives to impoundment (e.g. allowing a licensed passenger to take possession of the vehicle).

Officers shall not impound vehicles for DWLS 3rd violations.  Officers may impound vehicles for other crimes committed that warrant impoundment.

See 6.120-TSK-4 Impounding Vehicles for DWLS

8. Officers Impound Vehicles Into the Vehicle Processing Room (VPR) for Limited Reasons

Vehicles impounded to the VPR shall be screened by a sergeant and escorted to the facility by an officer

See 6.120-TSK-6 Placing Vehicles into the Vehicle Processing Room

Vehicles impounded for the following circumstances shall be placed in the VPR:

- Vehicle contains evidence and is pending a warrant

- Specific analysis of the vehicle must be performed (DNA, fingerprinting, damage analysis, etc.)

- Vehicle is an integral part of the investigation (agent/tool of the crime)

- Vehicle is held pending a seizure

- The case detective requested the vehicle be otherwise impounded to the VPR

Vehicles impounded for the following circumstances shall not be placed in the VPR:

- Vehicles impounded for crimes outside of the city

- Oversize vehicles, unless screened with a follow-up unit sergeant or CSI

- Vehicles leaking gasoline or otherwise hazardous materials, unless screened by CSI

- Vehicles damaged in an arson fire, unless screened by CSI

- Does not otherwise meet any of the criteria above

9. Detectives Assigned to An Impounded Vehicle Case Shall Only Retain Vehicles As Long as Necessary to Complete Investigation or Prosecution

Investigative unit sergeants shall report dispositions on impounded vehicles to Record Files Unit - Auto Records Team upon request.

When the primary detective decides not to obtain a search warrant for the vehicle, they shall inventory the contents of the vehicle on the same day.

Exception: Contents of the trunk and locked containers shall not be opened for inventories.

Detectives shall arrange for vehicles ready for release from Department storage facilities to be transported to the tow company via Communications. They shall notify the owner of the location they can obtain their vehicle.

10. Detectives Assigned to Impounded Vehicle Cases Determine When Vehicles are Improperly Impounded

SMC 11.30.180 outlines when the owner of a vehicle will be assessed impoundment, towing, and storage charges.

Detectives shall complete the “Hold Release” portion of the Investigatory Hold (form 5.53) and check the box indicating ‘City Pays’ if they determine a vehicle was improperly placed on an investigatory hold.

The detective shall notify their sergeant who will inform the impounding officer and their precinct/section captain of the violation via email.

11. Detectives Assigned to Impound Vehicle Cases May Release the Vehicle to Other Investigative Units

When the custody of the vehicle investigation is transferred from the original follow-up unit of assignment to the new follow-up unit, the original follow-up unit shall fill-out the Investigative Hold Tracking Form (form 5.53) with the following details:

- GO Number

- Date

- Vehicle information section

- Hold transfer section

12. Officers Will Not Drive Impounded Vehicles

Additionally, officers will not drive impounded vehicles in or around the Vehicle Processing Room.

13. Vehicles Will Only be Released to Owners from the Department Contracted Tow Lot

Detectives will arrange transport for vehicles in the VPR to the tow lot prior to notifying the owner of the release

14. Officers Do Not Recommend Tow Companies

Officers shall utilize Communications Section for impounds related to Department investigations.

For private tows, officers will refer to the city’s Licensed Tow Companies List

6.120-TSK-1-Impounding a Vehicle for Parking Violations

When Impounding Vehicles pursuant to a violation outlined in SMC 11.30.040 the officer:

1. Issues the vehicle a Parking Ticket.

2. Obtains the tow company’s truck number and driver name and writes in the appropriate box on the tow record.

Exception: Parking Enforcement Officers do not need to obtain the information in the "Authorization and Receipt" portion of the Tow/Impound Record.

3. Completes a WA state Tow/Impound form and leaves the driver and tow company copies with the vehicle.

4. Forwards the completed supervisor copy to Data Center.

6.120-TSK-2-Impounding a Vehicle for DUI Arrests

When Impounding Vehicles pursuant to a DUI arrest, the officer:

1. Requests a tow through Communications.

2. Completes a Uniform Tow/Impound and Inventory Record.

3. Checks the “DUI/PC IMPOUND” box in the top left corner of the form.

4. Writes “Hailey’s Law” and the crime driver was arrested for in the Narrative or Diagram portion of the form.

5. Obtains the tow company’s truck number and driver name and writes in the appropriate box on the tow record.

6. Provides the arrestee and tow company with their respective copies of the tow record.

7. Advises the arrested driver that only another registered owner or legal owner of the vehicle may redeem the vehicle within twelve hours.

8. Forwards the completed supervisor copy of the tow record to Data Center.

6.120-TSK-3-Impounding a Vehicle on a 72 Hour Notice

When Impounding Vehicles with prior notice the officer:

1. Verifies the vehicle is in violation of a law, abandoned, or mechanically unsafe.

2. Attaches a completed Notice of Violation – 72 Hour Parking form (8.5) to the driver’s side window or windshield of the vehicle.

3. Returns to the vehicle after the notice has lapsed and orders a tow.

4. Writes “72 hour notice attached on” and the date on the 72 Hour Parking form in the narrative portion of the tow record.

5. Obtains the tow company’s truck number and driver name and writes in the appropriate box on the tow record.

6. Completes a WA state Tow/Impound form and leaves the driver and tow company copies with the vehicle.

7. Forwards the completed supervisor copy to Data Center.

6.120-TSK-4-Impounding a Vehicle for DWLS

When Impounding Vehicles pursuant to a DWLS violation, the officer:

1. Requests a tow through Communications.

2. Completes a Washington State Tow/Impound and Inventory Record.

3. Checks the “DWLS IMPOUND” box in the top left corner and leaves the “DAY HOLD” portion blank.

4. Completes and provides the driver with the informational page and driver copy of the tow record packet.

5. Obtains the tow company’s truck number and driver name and writes in the appropriate box on the tow record.

6. Provides the tow company with their copy of the tow record.

7. Forwards the completed supervisor copy to Data Center.

6.120-TSK-5-Impounding a Vehicle for Sexual Abuse of a Minor

When Impounding Vehicles pursuant to crimes outlined in RCW 9A.88.140, the officer:

1. Completes a Uniform Tow/Impound and Inventory Record.

2. Checks the “EVIDENCE” box in the top left corner of the form.

3. Writes “VICE/Prostitution hold” and the appropriate reason for hold in the Narrative or Diagram portion of the form based on the specific probable cause for arrest.

- “This vehicle is impounded pursuant to RCW 9.68A.100—Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor and is further being held for evidentiary purposes.”

- “This vehicle is impounded pursuant to RCW 9.68A.101—Promoting Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor and is further being held for evidentiary purposes.”

- “This vehicle is impounded pursuant to RCW 9.68A.102—Promoting Travel For Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor and is further being held for evidentiary purposes.”

4. Provides a copy of the tow record and a Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Instruction Sheet (form 20.2) to the arrested person.

5. Forwards the supervisor copy of the tow record to Data Center.

6.120-TSK-6-Impounding Vehicles Into the Vehicle Processing Room (VPR)

When Impounding Vehicles into the VPR, the officer:

1. Screens the impound with a sergeant.

2. Requests a tow through Communications.

3. Completes a Washington State Tow/Impound and Inventory Record.

4. Writes the reason for the investigatory hold and the unit responsible for follow-up investigation in the Narrative or Diagram field on the tow record.

- Does not simply write "See Narrative".

5. Obtains the tow company’s truck number and driver name and writes in the appropriate box on the tow record.

6. Follows the vehicle to the VPR and keeps observation over it during transport.

7. Leaves the OFFICER and DRIVER copies on the windshield of the unlocked vehicle in the VPR and delivers the tow company copy to the tow truck operator.

Officers are responsible for ensuring that the VPR is locked and secure before leaving.

8. Forwards the SUPERVISOR copy to Data Center in an Alert Packet