Why does your vehicle get impounded after a Seattle DUI arrest?

One of the questions I am most often asked while I’m meeting with someone arrested for a DUI in Washington State is why did my vehicle have to get impounded?  This wasn’t always the case.  I used to represent people all the time who were arrested for DUI and the police officer left their car where it was.  Or sometimes I had cases where the police officer would even move the vehicle so it was lawfully parked and wouldn’t get towed in the morning.  However this all changed July 22, 2011 when Hailey’s law became effective.

What is Hailey’s law you ask?  Well back in 2007, Hailey French of Whatcom County was seriously injured in a head on collision when she was struck by a drunk driver.  The driver who had been arrested earlier was not booked and was actually taken back to her residence.  The arresting officer who did her this favor warned her about going back to her vehicle and driving.  The driver ignored this warning and went back to get her vehicle.  Unfortunately she was still affected by the alcohol consumed earlier and she got into an accident with Hailey French.  An interesting side note French sued Whatcom County and the Washington State Patrol and a jury awarded her $5.5 million.

So if you have been arrested for a DUI in Seattle or any other place in our State then your vehicle has a mandatory 12 hour hold before it will be released.  However there are certain exceptions when the vehicle can be picked up prior to the hold.  For example if two registered owners are on the vehicle, and one of the registered owners was not a passenger in the vehicle then that person can get the vehicle prior to the 12 hours.  Otherwise the vehicle has to stay in the impound lot for the mandatory 12 hours before it will be released.

Although I’m a Seattle DUI Attorney I must say that I was in favor of this bill.  I do believe that it will create a safer community for citizens of our State.  In addition there is the well crafted exception that would allow the vehicle to get released prior to the 12 hour hold.  What I’m not in favor of is the lack of any oversight on how much these two companies can charge.  If you get arrested for a DUI in Seattle for example and one of the major two companies gets your vehicle expect to pay $500-$750 to get the vehicle out of the tow yard.  To me that is a ridiculous price that is only benefiting the tow companies.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle.  He has been named a Rising Star in DUI Defense by both the Super Lawyers Magazine and the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.  Additionally he is recognized as one of the best Seattle DUI Attorneys by Avvo and was awarded their 2013 client’s choice award for excellence.