County's 30-Day Impoundment of Vehicle Passes Constitutional Muster


On June 30, 2010 the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, upheld the right of law enforcement agencies to impound vehicles. In particular, the Court found that the County of Sonoma's 30-day impoundment of a vehicle, pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 14602.6, did not violate the equal protection and due process rights afforded to the plaintiff by the federal and state constitutions. In the case, Alviso v. Sonoma County Sheriff's Department et al., A126241, a County Deputy Sheriff pulled over the plaintiff and discovered that his license had been suspended due to a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated, and impounded his vehicle. The plaintiff failed to request an administrative hearing to challenge the impoundment, and his car remained impounded for 30 days, at which point fees related to the impoundment exceeded the value of the vehicle.

The Court of Appeal's decision found that Section 14602.6, which authorizes a 30-day impoundment, does not violate equal protection rights because the 30-day impoundment requirement is rationally related to the goal of preventing dangerous driving offenses. Additionally, the fact that Vehicle Code Section 22852, under which the owner of a seized vehicle is entitled to an administrative hearing to determine the validity of the impoundment, does not require a hearing before a judicial officer, does not violate due process rights. For the Court's entire analysis, click here.

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