How can the police prompt a car to be impounded and how long are they allowed to keep it pending an investigation? 31 Answers as of August 20, 2012

My younger brother had his car impounded by the police for suspicion that drugs were in the car. They had a dog come out but had failed to pick up a scent. They proceeded to tell him they know that they believe drugs were in there because they had found a roach on the seat. The police also failed to get a warrant to search the car which prompted the car to get impounded. My brother being a minor and not living at home had his friend put the car in his name as well but took full responsibility for the car and was in possession of the key at that point. Both my brother and owner of the car were involved in the incident but the police only gave the case number to the actual owner of the car. Was this lawful for them to impound the car? Who would be charged if the car was searched and they possibly found something? When can we get the car back?

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Austin Hirschhorn, P.C.
Austin Hirschhorn, P.C. | Austin Hirschhorn
If the car was being used to transport drugs not only can it be impounded by the police but ownership of the car can be forfeited. If no drugs were found in the car the owner can have it returned to him by paying the towing and storage fee and proving ownership of the car. Since your brother's friend is shown as the owner of the vehicle he would have to get the vehicle released to him.

As soon as your brother comes of age or if you are interested in having the car titled in your name presently you should have the title transferred to the person that is going to be the owner.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/20/2012
Law office of Robert D. Scott | Robert Scott
If it is being held as evidence in the case, it can be held until final disposition of the charges.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 8/20/2012
Law Office of Richard Williams
Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
The police can keep the car for a "reasonable" period of time for investigation. Normally, this is about two weeks. If no one is charged have your attorney file a motion with the court for the return of the property.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 8/14/2012
Law Office of Phillip Weiser
Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
The car can be held until the evidence has been secured. You should contact the police dept and ask for the release of the car.
Answer Applies to: Kansas
Replied: 8/14/2012
Law Office of Ronald G. Draper | Ronald G. Draper
If no criminal charges are pending ,you must pay a fee to get the car out of impoundment. You should do that quickly so that storage fees are not compounded and more costly.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 8/14/2012
    Clos, Russell & Wirth, P.C. | Gary A. Russell
    It is impossible to advise you whether the police could legally search the vehicle with only the limited facts that you provided. Police need less basis to search an automobile then they do a person's home. Moreover, if an arrest was being made and the car was being impounded incident to the arrest, then an inventory search is permitted. The drug dog, believe it or not, is not considered a search under Michigan law. Since they found a roach on the seat, that is contraband and could be basis for a criminal charge/arrest, leading to a search incident to the arrest. If the vehicle is only impounded because of the arrest and is not evidence, it should be recoverable right away. If evidence, it depends upon the manner it is being used to determine whether the police can keep it indefinitely or not. The owner(s) need to petition the court for the return of the car. Finally, since both people are owners and were present in the car, both could be charged if drugs were found.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    The lawful owner should get the information. Have his/her lawyer check into it.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    How long have they had the vehicle? If it has been a while you might want to get an attorney to sue for return of the vehicle.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Myles Hahn III Attorney at Law | Myles Hahn III
    You have well described the details of what happened. Nonetheless, the situation is complicated. It is not an absolute necessity that a search warrant be obtained. The presence of the "roach" could be a factor. There are variables involved here. In what city did this happen?
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    You need to retain an attorney. There appears to be much that you do not know about the police investigation. They can keep the car for a reasonable amount of time to investigate. If they do not return it you would need an attorney to go to court to make a motion to release the property.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Office of Christopher G Humphrey PC | Christopher G Humphrey
    They can keep the car for a "reasonable amount of time." You have to petition for it's release. They could keep it indefinitely if they seek a forfeiture of the vehicle by saying it was used to deal drugs.
    Answer Applies to: Wyoming
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Frank M Mungo, Attorney at Law
    Frank M Mungo, Attorney at Law | Frank Mungo
    I'm terribly sorry that this happened to your brother. Let me see if I can answer all your questions. First, if the police found a roach in plain view, then the police have probable cause to search the interior cabin of the car, including containers, for drugs. Since an arrest was made based on drugs found in the car, no matter the amount, the police can impound the car. If they want to search it more extensively, they would need a warrant. For example, they would need a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause to search the trunk or search the car for hidden compartments. If the police did not seek a warrant and the car is not being held for evidence, the police should release the vehicle to the owner. If they do not, ask the court to release the vehicle. The police cannot hold the car just because they want to.
    Answer Applies to: Kentucky
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    The owner needs to go to the car impound yard. They will probably tell him he needs a release from the police. Then he needs to go to the cops who seized it (impound guy should know) and ask those questions. Best if he gets a lawyer to do the part where he talks to the cops. The biggest problem is that enormous storage charges accrue daily to a point where the car isn't worth as much as is owed. The cops often do this just to hassle someone they suspect of criminal activity but can't prove it.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    T.K. Byrne | Timothy K. Byrne
    You need to hire a competent attorney in the area of property seizure incident to arrest.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Thomas C. Brandstrader Attorney At Law | Thomas C. Brandstrader
    It's 55 days in Illinois.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Office of Gregory Crain | Gregory Crain
    Investigation for a reasonable time. File something in court.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Mace J. Yampolsky, LTD
    Mace J. Yampolsky, LTD | Mace Yampolsky
    Maybe Who would be charged if the car was searched and they possibly found something? The owner, the driver or maybe even a passenger depending on the facts. When can we get the car back? Make a motion or file a complaint for return of property.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    Too many questions with too few facts. I will need much more information before I could render an opinion. Is the car simply impounded, or being held as evidence? A roach is drugs. I would suspect that the owner (titleholder) of the car will be getting the notice regarding it.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    You should retain an attorney to try to talk to the prosecutor and arresting officer. They can do anything they want until a judge tells them otherwise. The lawyer has to either get them to return the car or make a motion to return the car. The police will just give you the runaround, they don't care what you say if they are keeping it for evidence or just because they want to.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Leonard A. Kaanta, P.C. | Leonard A. Kaanta
    Until the investigation is over.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    James M. Osak, P.C.
    James M. Osak, P.C. | James M. Osak
    Cops "impound" cars all the time. It's very bad in Detroit. You have to contact the prosecutor's office to try to make a deal or you'll have to retain an attorney to investigate.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Steven Alpers | Steven Alpers
    They should release the car. If they did not find drugs, they would have to get a search warrant and show probable cause to a judge as to why the car should be searched. The only other reason they might have is if they think the car is stolen or there is a problem with the title. Then they may be holding it as evidence, but I am just guessing.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    R. Jason de Groot, P.A
    R. Jason de Groot, P.A | R. Jason de Groot
    They will have a hard time explaining why the car was impounded, keep calling them and asking when the care can be released.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    To impound a car the police need probable cause to think that a crime was being committed and that the car was involved. From your facts there was a crime being committed (possession of marijuana) and it was found in the car. Therefore, the police had a legal right to impound the car. Once the car is impounded the police are allowed to conduct an inventory search of the car. This is for your protection so that none of your property is missing. However, it is only used by the police to search a car without a warrant. If the police find drugs in your car they do not have to return it and they are allowed to sale it at auction.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    The car can be kept as long as the case is pending. Even after the case is over, an attorney has to get a return of property order signed by the Judge.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    William L. Welch, III Attorney | William L. Welch, III
    If it is involved in a crime, it is evidence, and it may be impounded until the case is over. If there is a conviction, the state or the government might seek forfeiture, if the car were used in an illegal business or purchased with the proceeds from an illegal business.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    Yes, it is a lawful impound. They will keep the car for as long as necessary, if it is evidence to the commission of a crime. I don't know anything about your brother or the people he is hanging with. I don't know anything about the case. If the vehicle was impounded, I suspect that the crime that is being investigated is relatively serious. If the facts warrant it, yes, your brother could be charged. Depending upon the charges, despite the fact that he is a minor (I assume at least 16), then he could be charged as an adult. My advice: seek out and retain the services of an attorney who can help you. Since I know nothing about the facts of the case, I can't advise you in any more detail.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Usually the car is released unless it is a crime scene or a proceed of illegal drug sales and then a forfeiture action will be filed against it.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    Anything can be impounded or seized as evidence when a crime is suspected, and it can be held until the case is finished. The owner can file a written request to police to release and return it. If that is denied, the owner can file a noticed Motion in court seeking a court order for return or property. Such motion would compel the police and prosecutor to justify retaining the property, or release it. A little free advice: exercise the 5th Amendment right to SHUT UP and do NOT talk to police or anyone about the case except with and through an attorney. I can't speculate on what they may or may not do, or who could be charged with a crime. When and if someone is charged, then I defend them.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    You have the situation confused. The police did NOT say "we know we believe drugs are in the car" No officer talks like that. Your brother took full responsibility. Therefore, he will be charged with whatever is found in the vehicle. Can "we" who get the car back? Only the owner can get the car back. You have a number of things going on, and no clear explanation. Therefore, I recommend that you retain an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/14/2012
    Salladay Law Office | Lance Salladay
    It is lawful for the police to impound the car for an investigation but they can only keep it for a "reasonable time" sufficient to allow them to complete the investigation. Insufficient facts to determine who would or could be charged with any offense, and the car should be returned within a couple of days- they have no reason to keep it longer than needed to complete their search. Make a demand for its return.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 8/14/2012
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