Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 7713
What if your vehicle is impounded?Region: Ontario Answer # 7713
The repercussions of an impaired driving offence are severe and far-reaching. Upon conviction, penalties can range from fines to licence suspension to jail time. If you have been charged with a criminal driving offence such as impaired driving, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
One significant and immediate consequence that individuals might face when charged with impaired driving is vehicle impoundment. This is particularly common if the driver has a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or if it’s a repeat offence. Vehicle impoundment refers to the legal process where a vehicle is seized and placed into an impound lot, a holding place for cars until they can be either legally claimed or until their disposal.
The process of retrieving an impounded vehicle can be complex and typically involves paying all relevant fines, the towing fee, and daily storage costs.
What factors might lead to your vehicle being impounded?
Along with a high BAC or a history of repeat impaired driving offences, additional aggravating factors that play a role in the decision to impound a vehicle include:
- high-speed driving,
- causing bodily harm or damage, or
- driving impaired with a minor in the vehicle
How long can a vehicle be impounded for?
The duration of the impoundment can vary based on the severity of the offence and the offender’s history. It can range from a few days to several months.
In Ontario, if you are driving with a suspended driver’s licence, a police officer can issue an impoundment notice and your vehicle will be impounded for:
- Criminal Code convictions such as impaired driving or failing to remain at the scene of a collision: 45 days for the first impoundment, 90 days for the second, and 180 days for the third during a 2-year period
- stunt driving or street racing: 14 days
- other Highway Traffic Act offences such as having a blood alcohol concentration at 0.08 or more, or refusing a police officer’s demand for drug or alcohol testing: 7 days
What is the process for a vehicle being impounded?
When a vehicle is impounded due to an impaired driving offence, the police typically provide a notice of impoundment to the driver at the scene or shortly thereafter. Even if the driver is not the vehicle owner, the vehicle will be impounded. If the vehicle is registered to another individual or a leasing company, that party is also usually notified about the impoundment. In Ontario, if you were not the one driving but you were the vehicle owner or licence plate holder, the police will notify you directly for 7-day impoundments, while the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will notify you directly for 45-day impoundments.
In most cases, the vehicle will be towed to a police impound yard close to the location where it was seized. View the Order to Impound or Release Motor Vehicles under Section 55.1 of the Highway Traffic Act for more information.
What is the recovery process for the impounded vehicle?
Recovering an impounded vehicle involves several steps. Usually, the vehicle owner must first wait until the mandated impoundment period is over. Then, they must usually pay all associated fees, which can be quite substantial, especially for longer impoundment periods. Once these steps have been completed, the vehicle can be released. However, the process for releasing an impounded vehicle may differ among police services and so drivers and vehicle owners should be sure to get release information and instructions from the police service that impounded the motor vehicle.
Costs and fees associated with having a vehicle impounded
Even if the driver is not the vehicle owner, it is the vehicle owner who is responsible for paying all fees to get their vehicle back at the end of impoundment period. The fees and other costs that are associated with a vehicle impoundment may include:
Towing fees: covers the cost of towing the vehicle from the site of arrest to the impound lot and can be significantly affected by the distance that the vehicle needs to be towed.
Storage or impound fees: for each day the vehicle remains in the impound lot.
Administrative fees: to cover the costs of processing the impoundment and subsequently releasing the vehicle.
Increase in insurance premiums: Insurance companies often view impaired driving offences and associated penalties, such as vehicle impoundment, as indicators of high risk. As a result, they may raise your premiums significantly.
Can you appeal a vehicle impoundment?
In Ontario, Criminal Code suspensions (45-day impoundments) can be appealed (not 7-day impoundments) for a refund of the towing and storage costs, but only under the following circumstances:
- the vehicle was stolen at the time it was impounded
- the driver’s licence was not under suspension or not subject to an ignition interlock condition as a result of a Criminal Code conviction
- the vehicle owner/plate holder tried made reasonable efforts to make sure the driver had a valid driver’s licence or was not subject to an ignition interlock condition as a result of a Criminal Code conviction (for example, checking the driver’s record with the Ministry of Transportation)
- the loss of the vehicle would result in exceptional hardship
If you have been charged with a driving offence, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .
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