Can the police department put a 30-day impound hold on your vehicle for driving on suspended license

Full Question:

When is the police department able to put a 30-day impound hold on your vehicle for driving on a suspended license? What is the difference between a 14601 and a 14602?
01/31/2007   |   Category: Drivers License   |   State: California   |   #1003


The following information comes from the California Highway Patrol website at:

California Vehicle Code (CVC) Sections 14602.6 and 14607.6

On January 1, 1995, new laws were enacted relating to unlicensed drivers.
These laws, California Vehicle Code (CVC) Sections 14602.6 and 14607.6
authorize tow enforcement agencies to tow and impound vehicles for 30
days when driven by unlicensed, suspended, or revoked drivers. There is a
possibility that the vehicle could be forfeited (taken from you by the state) if
you have a prior conviction for driving while unlicensed, or with a suspended
or revoked license.

Remember, if you are unlicensed or driving with a suspended or revoked
license, the vehicle you are driving may be impounded for 30 days and
possibly forfeited. Also, if you let someone else drive your vehicle and they
are unlicensed, or driving with a suspended or revoked license, your vehicle
may be impounded and possibly forfeited.

The following excuses WILL not HELP YOU when your vehicle is being driven
by an unlicensed driver and is stopped by law enforcement officers for any reason.

"It was a minor infraction. Why was my car impounded?"

Both 14602.6 and 14607.6 of the CVC give law enforcement officers the
authority to impound your vehicle when it is being operated by
an "unlicensed driver" (license not issued, suspended or revoked).
Your car is being impounded because you have committed a misdemeanor,
not an infraction. By operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's
license you have committed a serious offense. In addition to the citation, the
vehicle you are operating will be impounded and held for 30 days, or
possibly forfeited.

"I don't understand. Why 30 days? I absolutely need my car!"

The Legislature intended to provide safer roads for California's motoring
public by removing the vehicles driven by unlicensed, suspended, or revoked
drivers for 30 days. A serious violation of the law calls for a serious
response. The 30-day impound begins on the calendar day the car is towed
and will be released at the conclusion of the 30th day during normal business

"My brother borrowed the car"

. . . or . . .

"I did not know his license was suspended"

Under Section 14604 CVC, the owner has a duty to assure the person
driving their vehicle possesses a valid license; however, if you allow or
permit anyone, including: your wife, son or daughter, or friend or relative, to
drive your vehicle and that person does not have a valid driver's license, you
will be responsible for towing and storage fees. You will not have access to
the vehicle for 30 days.

"She took the car without my permission"

. . . and . . .

"I am the owner of the car and I have a valid license."

To say someone has taken your car without your permission is not a valid
excuse. Ask yourself: How did this happen? Have you allowed him / her to
use your car before? Did you ask to see his / her license? Any vehicle
impounded will be released to the registered owner after the 30 days.
Note: If, in fact, it is determined that your car was taken by an unlicensed
driver without your knowledge or permission, a stolen vehicle report must
be filed. The person charged with this crime will be arrested.

"What happens to my car? Who impounds the car? What if I don't agree
with the officer?"

Your car will be stored at a tow yard and you will be given a receipt. If you
disagree with the officer, you may request an informal hearing with the
California Highway Patrol Area commander to determine whether the officer
had reasonable cause to impound the vehicle.

"What happens if my car is stored a second time for being driven by an
unlicensed, suspended, or revoked driver?"

Your car may be forfeited. This law can be enforced at any time. Driving a
motor vehicle on public highways in the State of California is a privilege and
not a right. This privilege can be revoked, suspended or denied. A valid
California driver's license designates and identifies the bearer as competent
to operate a motor vehicle according to state regulations.

"Why is driving without a valid driver's license so serious?"

An unlicensed driver is a potential danger to all other motorists on the
highway. He / she may not know the rules of the road or practice safe
driving techniques. A driver who is unlicensed, or has a suspended or
revoked driver's license has been ordered not to drive because of previous
driving violations. Continuing to drive shows a flagrant disregard for the
safety of other motorists.

CHP 959 (9-1996) OPI 013

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