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1/17/2007
Arizona: Seizure Law Brings Big Cash
A new Arizona automobile seizure law is bringing cities and counties millions in annual revenue.

Tow truck
Last January, an Arizona law took effect requiring police to seize the vehicles of individuals accused -- but not convicted -- of certain violations. Already at least two jurisdictions are generating millions in revenue.

The law mandates that police impound a vehicle for 30 days if the police officer suspects its driver had a suspended license or a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more. Pima County and Tuscon together tow nearly a thousand cars a month, bringing $5 million in fees and fines annually. Under the new law, each violation nets up to $450 in fees and fines divided up between the jurisdictions and towing companies who often are able to keep cars when the fees are inflated beyond the vehicle's value. These fees come on top of fines for the various offenses that can exceed $2000.

Jim Mooney, owner of Frontier Towing, told the Arizona Daily Star that he was purchasing four $85,000 tow trucks to keep up with the increase in seizures.

In Tuscon, anyone who feels his car has been seized by police improperly is limited to an "administrative hearing" before Tucson Police Sergeant Christopher Andreacola. The hearing is held only after fees are paid and after the car has been held for up to seven full days, excluding weekends and holidays. The decision can then be challenged in circuit court. Tuscon also seizes automobiles from individuals who transport individuals for medical care without first checking their citizenship status.

Article Excerpt:
Arizona Revised Statutes
28-3511. Removal and immobilization or impoundment of vehicle

A. A peace officer shall cause the removal and either immobilization or impoundment of a vehicle if the peace officer determines that a person is driving the vehicle while any of the following applies:

1. The person's driving privilege is revoked for any reason.

2. The person's driving privilege is suspended because of a driving under the influence conviction.

3. The person's driving privilege is suspended pursuant to the department's action based on a previous conviction for a violation of section 28-3473.

4. The person's driving privilege is suspended pursuant to section 28-3306, subsection A, paragraph 3.

5. According to department records the person has not ever been issued a driver license or permit and the person does not produce evidence of a driver license issued by another jurisdiction.

B. A peace officer shall cause the removal and impoundment of a vehicle if the peace officer determines that a person is driving the vehicle and if all of the following apply:

1. The person's driving privilege is canceled, suspended or revoked or according to department records the person has not ever been issued a driver license or permit and the person does not produce evidence of a driver license issued by another jurisdiction.

2. The person is not in compliance with the financial responsibility requirements of chapter 9, article 4 of this title.

3. The person is driving a vehicle that is involved in an accident that results in either property damage or injury to or death of another person.

C. Except as provided in subsection D of this section, while a peace officer has control of the vehicle the peace officer shall cause the removal and either immobilization or impoundment of the vehicle if the peace officer has probable cause to arrest the driver of the vehicle for a violation of section 4-244, paragraph 33 or section 28-1382 or 28-1383.

D. A peace officer shall not cause the removal and either the immobilization or impoundment of a vehicle pursuant to subsection C of this section if either:

1. All of the following apply:

(a) The peace officer determines that the vehicle is currently registered and that the driver or the vehicle is in compliance with the financial responsibility requirements of chapter 9, article 4 of this title.

(b) The spouse of the driver is with the driver at the time of the arrest.

(c) The peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the spouse of the driver:

(i) Has a valid driver license.

(ii) Is not impaired by intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances.

(iii) Does not have any spirituous liquor in the spouse's body if the spouse is under twenty-one years of age.

(d) The spouse notifies the peace officer that the spouse will drive the vehicle from the place of arrest to the driver's home or other place of safety.

(e) The spouse drives the vehicle as prescribed by subdivision (d) of this paragraph.

2. The vehicle is owned by the driver's parent or guardian and the peace officer has probable cause to arrest the driver of the vehicle for a violation of section 4-244, paragraph 33 but not for a violation of section 28-1382 or 28-1383.

E. Except as otherwise provided in this article, a vehicle that is removed and either immobilized or impounded pursuant to subsection A or B or C of this section shall be immobilized or impounded for thirty days. An insurance company does not have a duty to pay any benefits for charges or fees for immobilization or impoundment.

F. The owner of a vehicle that is removed and either immobilized or impounded pursuant to subsection A or B or C of this section, the spouse of the owner and each person identified on the department's record with an interest in the vehicle shall be provided with an opportunity for an immobilization or poststorage hearing pursuant to section 28-3514.
...
28-3515. Unclaimed vehicles

If a claim has not been made for the return or possession of the vehicle by a person legally entitled to the vehicle within thirty days after a vehicle is impounded pursuant to this article, the person who has possession of the vehicle shall submit an abandoned vehicle report as provided in section 28-4838.
Source: Impoundment law has owners, tow firms scrambling to adapt (Arizona Daily Star, 1/17/2007)



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