Warrantless Vehicle Impoundment is Mandatory in DUI Arrests
Hailey's Law came about after a repeat drunk driver was arrested by a Washington State Trooper. Instead of putting her in jail or impounding her car, the trooper left her car in a parking lot, gave her a ride home, gave her keys back, told her not to drive again until she sobered up, and left. Unfortunately, the drunk driver waited nine minutes, called a cab, went back to her car, got behind the wheel and slammed into Hailey French, nearly killing her.
In 2011, “Hailey's Law” was codified at RCW 46.55.350-.370. The Legislature passed the law to protect the public and to require law enforcement to impound every vehicle being driven or in control by someone arrested for DUI, physical control or their felony counterparts. The purpose of mandatory impoundment is to protect the public from a person operating a vehicle while still impaired. RCW 46.55.360 sets forth the requirement of mandatory warrantless vehicle impound for DUI, physical control, felony DUI and felony physical control arrestees. This mandatory impound law does not include vehicular homicide, RCW 46.61.520, vehicular assault, RCW 46.61.522, driver under twenty-one consuming alcohol or marijuana, RCW 46.61.503, or negligent driving in the first degree, RCW 46.61.5249.
In addition to mandatory vehicle impound in DUI arrests, law enforcement officials are authorized by statute to impound vehicles for a variety of other reasons. The following are the types of vehicles that may be impounded along with the applicable statutes:
(1) unattended, unauthorized, or abandoned vehicles (over 24 hours) RCW 46.55.085
(2) vehicles constituting a traffic obstruction or jeopardy to public safety; RCW 46.55.113
(3) stolen vehicles; RCW 46.55.113 (5)
(4) unauthorized vehicles parked in a handicapped parking space;
(5) unattended vehicles at the scene of an accident; RCW 46.55.113 (3)
(6) vehicles of a driver involved in an accident or arrested and taken into custody when the driver is incapable of deciding upon steps to be taken to protect his or her property;
(7) vehicles missing serial and/or identification number;
(8) vehicles driven by a person arrested for DUI/PC;
(9) vehicles operated with defective equipment; RCW 46.32.060
(10) vehicles operated by a person without a valid driver's license or with a license expired for 90 days or more, or with a suspended or revoked license; RCW 46.20.435
(11) vehicles being driven by a person arrested and taken into custody. RCW 46.55.113
See generally RCW 46.55.113, RCW 46.55.080, RCW 46.55.085, RCW 46.12.310, RCW 46.32.060, RCW 9A.88.140, RCW 46.55.070