3/2/2010Washington: Legislature May Allow Cops To Seize Cars At Will
Washington legislature close to adopting bill giving police power to seize car for 12 hours on mere suspicion of drunk driving.
Police in Washington state will have the power to take any car for at least twelve hours under legislation passed unanimously by the state House earlier this month and considered by a Senate committee yesterday. State Representative Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) introduced what he called "Hailey's Law" which would make it mandatory for police to grab the vehicle from drivers merely suspected -- not convicted -- of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
"When an operator of a vehicle is arrested for a violation of [DUI statutes], the vehicle is subject to summary impoundment and the vehicle must be impounded," House Bill 2565 states. "The impounded vehicle may not be redeemed within a twelve-hour period following the time the impounded vehicle arrives at the registered tow truck operator's storage facility as noted in the registered tow truck operator's master log."
The punishment of having the car seized is imposed, without possibility of appeal, on the mere accusation of an officer. The car may not be redeemed until twelve-hours after the car arrives at the lot, unless another person happens to be the registered owner of the vehicle. That owner, regardless of whether he was aware of the vehicle's use, must pay all of the impound and storage fees before recovering his property. The proposed law gives the state immunity from paying any financial damages that an innocent car owner may suffer as a result of his loss of the car.
"Vehicle impoundment provides an appropriate measure of accountability for registered owners who allow impaired operators to drive or control their vehicles, but it also allows the registered owners to redeem their vehicles once impounded," the bill's statement of purpose explains. "Any inconvenience on a registered owner is outweighed by the need to protect the public."
The Towing and Recovery Association of Washington is one of the main lobbying organizations pushing for the adoption of the law. Association members stand to gain substantial revenue from the towing fees.
The bill must pass the full Senate and be signed by the governor to become law. A copy of the legislation is available in a 25k PDF file at the source link below.