General Policy Information
Latest Revision Date: 11/20/2013
Title 1 - Department Structure and Function
Title 2 - Department Employment
Title 3 - Employee Welfare
Title 4 - Human Resources
Title 5 - Employee Conduct
Title 6 - Arrests, Search and Seizure
Title 7 - Evidence and Property
Title 8 - Use of Force
Title 9 - Equipment and Uniforms
Title 10 - Police Facilities & Security
Title 11 - Detainee Management
Title 12 - Department Information Systems
Title 13 - Vehicle Operations
Title 14 - Emergency Operations
Title 15 - Primary Investigation
Title 16 - Patrol Operations
Effective Date: 5/16/2012
Generally, officers should consider reasonable alternatives before impounding a vehicle, but officers are not required to exhaust all possible alternatives. Officers may not impound a vehicle merely because an arrest has been made.
I. Alternatives to Impound
A. Officers may leave a vehicle at the scene of an incident if the vehicle is not needed for police purposes. The vehicle may be:
1. Legally parked and secured in the immediate area, with the permission of the owner (or their authorized representative),
2. Released to the owner (or their authorized representative), or
3. Privately towed at the owner’s request and expense.
II. Reporting the Impound of a Vehicle
A. Vehicle Report (form 5.5)
1. Officers shall complete a Vehicle Report to impound a vehicle for any reason other than a parking violation. A specific reason must be indicated when impounding a vehicle.
B. Parking Violation Ticket
1. Write the word “Impound” in the “Comments” box on the front of the Parking Citation.
2. Do not impound a vehicle for a parking violation when the occupants of the vehicle have been arrested and other legal authority to impound exists.
III. Impoundment with Prior Notice
A. 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”.
1. Notice of impound under this section is given by securely attaching a Notice of Violation - 72 hour Parking (form 8.5) to the vehicle for a minimum period of 72 hours prior to impoundment.
2. After 72 hours, if the vehicle has not been moved, the officer may cite the vehicle and impound on the parking citation.
IV. Impoundment without Prior Notice
A. A vehicle may be impounded with or without citation and without giving prior notice if it falls into one of the categories listed in SMC 11.30.040 –“When a vehicle may be impounded without prior notice”.
B. Driving Under the Influence/Physical Control (“Hailey’s Law”)
1. An officer arresting a person for driving or being in physical control of a vehicle under the influence must impound the vehicle pursuant to RCW 46.55.360 “Hailey’s Law” if the vehicle is not a commercial vehicle or a farm transport vehicle.
2. The officer shall advise the arrested driver that only another person who is also a registered owner or legal owner, who was not the driver, may redeem the vehicle within twelve hours.
3. If the vehicle is a commercial vehicle (as defined in RCW 46.04.140) or farm transport vehicle (as defined in RCW 46.55.360), and the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the vehicle, the officer shall attempt to contact the owner of the vehicle and may release the vehicle to the owner if the owner is reasonably available, as long as the owner was not in the vehicle at the time of the stop and arrest.
4. Specific Vehicle Report requirements:
a. The Vehicle Report must include the registered owner and legal owner or lien holder information.
b. The narrative of the Vehicle Report must state, “This vehicle is impounded pursuant to RCW 46.55.360 ‘Hailey’s Law’, and “Driver Arrested for DUI” or “Driver arrested for Physical Control”.
c. All suspect information must be included and “DUI” written in the charge box.
d. Do not fill out the investigative hold information unless there are other crimes, collisions or circumstances where current policy and practice would require or justify it.
5. The officer may secure the Vehicle Report inside the vehicle, with the doors locked and the windows rolled up, and leave the vehicle if:
a. The officer has ordered a tow truck and more than thirty minutes has elapsed, or
b. The officer is called away due to exigent circumstances or limited available resources require the officer to return to service.
C. Driving While License Suspended or Revoked
1. Officers should exercise discretion in impounding vehicles operated by drivers with suspended licenses. Discretion does not require consideration of all possible alternatives to securing the vehicle, only those alternatives that are reasonable and immediately available. Document the factors used in the exercise of discretion or decision to impound.
2. Do not impound solely for a DWLS 3rd violation. There must be other factors present to warrant impoundment.
3. If the vehicle is released:
a. Document the release of the vehicle to a specific person.
b. Do not allow a non-licensed or impaired agent of the owner to drive.
4. Specific Vehicle Report requirements
a. Write “DWLS” in the “Hold For Investigation and Release By” box
b. Write, “DWLS 1st”, “DWLS 2nd”, or “DWLS 3rd” in the “Reason For Hold/Investigation” box.
D. Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor
1. An officer arresting a person for the crimes of Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor, Promoting Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor, or Promoting Travel for Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor, must impound the arrested person’s vehicle pursuant to RCW 9A.88.140.
2. Officers may impound the vehicle to the tow company’s storage facility or to the SPD vehicle processing room (Section VII), depending on the circumstances of the case.
3. Specific Vehicle Report requirements
a. Write “VICE/Prostitution Hold” in the “HOLD for investigation and release by” box
b. Write “Investigation of CSAM” or “Investigation of Promoting CSAM” or “Investigation of Promoting Travel for CSAM” in the “Reason for Hold/Investigation” box depending on the crime being investigated.
c. The narrative portion of the Vehicle Report (form 5.5) must state:
(1) “This vehicle is impounded pursuant to RCW 9.68A.100—Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor and is further being held for evidentiary purposes.” or;
(2) “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.” or;
(3) “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.”
d. Give a copy of the Vehicle Report (form 5.5) and the Impoundment of Vehicle Used in the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Instruction Sheet (form 20.2) to the arrested person.
V. Stolen Vehicle Recoveries
A. When impounding a recovered stolen vehicle, and absent any other crime, impound the vehicles to the tow company’s storage facility and not to the processing room.
B. If an outside agency includes language on the NCIC/WACIC hit that states “Hold for Prints” or something similar, contact communications to advise the listed agency of the option to send their own contract tow company to take the vehicle back to their processing facility.
C. If the outside agency does not make such arrangements, impound the vehicle to the tow company’s storage facility.
VI. Vehicle Inventory
A. Officers shall make a routine inspection of an impounded vehicle for items of value unless the vehicle is impounded on an investigatory hold. Absent exigent circumstances, consent, or some other legal authority, nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize a search or seizure of a vehicle without a warrant where a warrant would otherwise be required.
VII. Investigatory Holds of Vehicles/Vehicle Evidence Processing
A. An investigatory hold may be placed on impounded vehicles only when probable cause exists to believe that the vehicle either contains evidence of a crime or constitutes evidence of a crime.
B. Primary Officer Responsibilities
1. Screen the impoundment with a patrol sergeant or above.
2. Include the justification for the investigatory hold in the narrative of the Vehicle Report.
3. List the name of the follow-up unit that will be investigating the crime in the “Hold for Investigation and release by” box.
4. Request a contracted tow company to transport the vehicle.
a. If the vehicle is going to the Processing Room, follow the vehicle from the place of impoundment to the processing room, keeping it under observation.
b. Place the yellow and pink copies of the Vehicle Report on the windshield of the unlocked vehicle in the processing room, and secure the processing room by closing all doors.
5. Include a copy of the Vehicle Report in the Alert packet that is forwarded to the appropriate follow-up unit.
C. Follow-up Unit Responsibilities
1. The assistant chief of the Investigations Bureau or designee will ensure that follow-up units retain vehicles only as long as necessary to fulfill legal requirements.
2. When the Records Files Unit - Auto Records Team requests a disposition of a held vehicle, the follow-up unit sergeant will take appropriate action to ensure the vehicle is retained only as long as necessary to complete an investigation or prosecution.
a. If the vehicle must be held for prosecution, further investigation, or seizure, it shall be moved to a Department long-term vehicle storage facility within 4 days.
3. When a follow-up unit receives notice from the Auto Records Team that a vehicle has an “Investigatory Hold” for their unit, and the original case has been referred to another unit for follow-up, the referring unit must note “Case Referred To: [Follow-up Unit’s Name]” in the large box at the bottom of the Investigatory Hold (form 5.53). The form must then be sent to Auto Records, with a copy to the unit handling the case.
4. In the event a search warrant is not obtained, the vehicle’s contents shall be inventoried (excluding contents of the trunk or any locked containers) the same day the search warrant process is abandoned. Criminal Investigations personnel will complete this inventory.
5. Any vehicle in a city storage facility ready to be returned to the owner must be taken from the city storage facility to the contracted tow company by order of the investigating detective. The registered owner shall take possession of their vehicle from the tow company.
D. Auto Records Team Responsibilities
1. The Auto Records Team will forward the “Daily Detective Hold” list to appropriate detective units by 0800 hours each business day.
2. When a vehicle remains in short-term storage on an “Investigatory Hold” for a fourth (4th) day, the Auto Records Team will send a report to the appropriate follow-up unit notifying them that the vehicle should be moved to a long term storage facility to avoid daily storage fees.
3. When a vehicle remains on an “Investigatory Hold” for a tenth (10th) day the Auto Records Team will contact the appropriate follow-up Lieutenant who must complete and sign the Investigatory Hold (form 5.53).
4. If the vehicle is not moved as of the thirteenth (13th) day, the Auto Records Team will send a notice to the appropriate follow-up captain, lieutenant and the Records Files Unit manager indicating that the “Hold” must be cleared or the vehicle must be moved to long-term storage.
5. If the vehicle is still not moved as of the fifteenth (15th) day, the Auto Records Team will notify the Investigations Bureau Chief and the Field Support Bureau Chief.
6. The Auto Records Team will initiate an audit of those vehicles under Department impound at least once a year.
E. Payment for Vehicles on Investigatory Hold Status
1. SMC 11.30.180 outlines when the owner of a vehicle will be assessed impoundment, towing, and storage charges.
2. If a follow-up unit determines that a vehicle was improperly impounded and placed on an “Investigatory Hold”, the unit shall complete the ‘Hold Release’ portion of the Investigatory Hold (form 5.53) and check the box indicating ‘City Pays’.