My Car was Towed: What are My Rights?
There are several reasons why a car may be towed. Perhaps it conked out on the side of the road, there was a flat tire and no spare, or there was an accident of some sort. On the other side of the coin, cars can be towed for being illegally parked or as part of an arrest.
In the case of a mechanical failure of some sort, the car will be taken to a garage for repair. In the case of a legal issue, the car will be impounded. Of course, neither situation is very pleasant. But at least with the garage, you won’t have to deal with the legal system.
There are a few different reasons for your car being impounded. Leaving your car parked on private property, whether there are posted signs or not or leaving your car in a public right of way, disable parking spot, or if the vehicle registration has been expired for 45 days or more deal with non-moving violations.
Your car may also be towed and impounded if you’ve been found driving under the influence, driving with no license, or with a suspended or revoked license. In this case, your car may be held for 30 days or even longer if you’ve had multiple infractions. You will be required to pay all storage fees associated with the impoundment.
After your car is impounded, the towing company will receive your name and contact information from the state of Washington and will have 24 hours to mail your information about your car. This information is gathered from the arrest, so if you give a false address, that is not a legal reason for not receiving the notice or paying fees associated with the impounding of your car.
From here, you have two options: you can contest the towing in district court if a state agent ordered the impounding or municipal court if it was a local authority. The towing company notice will state which court you will need to go to. You must file a notice (and pay associated fees) within 10 days of the action or you waive your right to do so.
If the towing is found to be improper, all fees and fines associated may be returned to you. It’s best to consult with a lawyer for more detailed information in cases like this. Your situation may be different than others. If the towing is found to be proper, you’re responsible for associated fees and fines.
The other option is to just pay the fines and fees associated with the tow and impounding and be done with it. You will need a valid ID, proof of ownership, and payment. The towing yard must be open during normal office hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) Monday-Friday, with the exceptions of holidays. If you want to retrieve personal items, you must bring a photo ID to the towing company. After hour fees will be added if applicable.
NOTE: Chappelle’s Towing has its own policy regarding personal property. Click here for more information.
Abandoning Your Car
If you decide not to retrieve your car or are unable to pay for the fees and fines, the towing company will begin the process of considering it abandoned. This starts after the company has had the car for 120 hours and sends a report to the Department of Licensing. Within 72 hours, the DOL will give your contact info to the towing company.
From there, the towing company must mail a notice to you within 24 hours. If you do not respond within 15 days, the car is considered abandoned and may be sold at auction. You are still responsible for all fees and fines.
All information provided by the Northwest Justice Project. Click here for more information.