Can tow companies search your car?
Having your car broken into can be a debilitating situation. Your personal property has been violated, car locks or windows may have been broken, and valuables were taken. Many victims experience fear for months or even years after an incident.
Walking to the car at night, or any time of day really, becomes an exercise in pressure. What if someone broke in again, or is rummaging through my car right now? What if the thief is waiting for me? These thoughts are common after a traumatic event.
But what if your car has been ransacked after being towed? Either by law enforcement personnel or even the tow company itself. Is the towing company even legally allowed to go through your car? Yes, but let’s first think about why a car may get towed.
Why Did My Car Get Towed?
If abandoned for a certain amount of time, the city or county can have a vehicle towed and impounded on their lot. Other examples include unlawfully parking on private property where someone lives, where warning signs are posted, or in public areas for more than 24 hours.
Tow trucks can be called in immediately in other situations, too. Leaving your car in a public roadway in a dangerous area, parking in a handicapped spot without a proper decal or license plate, and an expired registration if the car is parked on a public right of way.
In many cases, these aren’t serious police matters and law enforcement has no reason to pick over the car with a fine-toothed comb. However, if it is believed a car played a part in the crime or belongs to a criminal, police can and will search the vehicle. That includes impounding lots at a towing company.
What About My Stuff?
Vehicle owners do have time to retrieve their belongings before they are considered abandoned. If the car has been impounded for more than 120 hours, the towing company will alert the Washington State Department of Licensing. The towing company will also alert the owner that the car has been considered “abandoned.”
After receiving notice of abandonment, the owner has another 15 days to get belongings from the car until it goes to auction. In Washington State, you are able to retrieve belongings with a photo ID and proof of ownership. A vehicle owner may also request (in writing) a personal belongings storage request form.
Chappelle’s Towing will never remove anything out of a vehicle and we have our own policy regarding personal property. If you have any more questions about your vehicle or how to get your personal belongings back, feel free to reach out to us.