What to do if your vehicle is impounded in BC
In BC, your vehicle can be impounded if you commit or are suspected of committing certain offences. This is a reflection of the fact that driving is a privilege, not a right. Finding yourself in a position where your prized possession has been taken away from you can be confusing, stressful and costly. Not having access to your vehicle can severely impact your work and family commitments. This blog is designed to help you to understand the process and guide you if you intend to get your vehicle back as soon as possible.
Why might your vehicle be impounded?
There are two categories of driving infractions that result in a vehicle impoundment: Immediate Roadside Prohibitions (IRP) and Driving Behaviour Infractions.
IRPs are issued for impaired driving offences while Driving Behaviour Infractions include:
- Driving while prohibited or otherwise than in accordance with a licence
- Excessive speeding
- Stunt driving or street racing
- Improperly seated motorcyclists
What happens when your vehicle is impounded?
If a police officer suspects you committed one of the above offences, they may issue you a Notice of Vehicle Impoundment at the roadside. A copy of the notice will also be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
With your vehicle gone, you may now find yourself stranded. Don’t panic. You have a few options. The police will call a tow truck and your vehicle will be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense. You will also have to pay for storage costs. You may choose to get a ride with the tow truck driver back to the impound lot – after all, you’re paying for it. Or, if you’re not a fan of awkward conversation, you could call someone to come pick you up, get a taxi or take public transport. I
If your vehicle is impounded while you’re in a remote part of BC, you may end up having to pay a lot to get home. You may even have to stay at a hotel overnight while you can make arrangements to get home.
Length of vehicle impoundment
If you receive either a 30 or 90-day driving prohibition, or if you get three or more IRPs in the last five years, there is a mandatory vehicle impoundment of 30 days. For any IRPs shorter than 90 days, the length of vehicle impoundment is up to the police officer. If it is necessary to prevent someone from driving while they are prohibited, then they may impound the vehicle for the same period as the prohibition. If someone receives a seven-day prohibition, for example, the impoundment period will also be seven days.
For Driving Behaviour Infractions, the length of the impoundment depends on how many of these infractions you have already received in the last two years. A first infraction will result in a seven-day impoundment, a second will result in 30 days and a third will get you a day impoundment.
How to get your impounded vehicle back
If your vehicle is impounded and you want to get it back, you have three options
Option1: You can wait for the impoundment period to end. The registered owner may then retrieve the vehicle from the impound lot after paying towing and storage fees. You also need to get a Vehicle Release form from a driver licensing office, fill it out and submit it to the impound lot operator.
Option 2: You can apply for a review of the vehicle impoundment
Option 3: If you successfully appeal your IRP or Driving Behaviour Infraction it will wipe out the vehicle impoundment and towing and storage fees as well
Any vehicle impoundment that is 30 days or longer is eligible for appeal. You must file an application for a review within 15 days of the date the vehicle was impounded. You can either request a written review, which costs $50, or an oral hearing via telephone, which costs $100.
You can submit a review application at a driver licensing office where you will also have to pay the review fee. You need to bring ID, proof of ownership of the vehicle, a copy of the Notice of Impoundment and any relevant information to support your application.
If you intend to submit a written review you must present your case in writing to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. It will be sent to an adjudicator who will consider your written argument against the police’s account before making a decision. After you submit your review application you will be given a copy of the information from the police that the adjudicator will consider after which you will be able to present further information to the adjudicator before the actual review is held.
After you submit your review application, you will be sent a date and time for you or your lawyer to present your case by phone. You may include a written submission as part of your review application. Both the written and oral information will be considered by the adjudicator.
The adjudicator will send written decision as to whether the vehicle should be released from the impound lot within seven days of the date of the review.
Grounds for appeal
When filling out your review application, you must indicate on what grounds you are making the appeal. The appeal must fit into one of the following categories:
- Economic hardship if the vehicle is not released early;
- Compassionate grounds
- The vehicle was used without the owner’s knowledge and consent at the time of the impoundment
- The registered owner exercised reasonable care and diligence in entrusting the vehicle to another person at the time of the impoundment
What you should do if your vehicle is impounded
You can file a review of your vehicle impoundment in the hope of getting it back. You can hire us to do this for you. We regularly handle vehicle impoundment reviews. In order to challenge a driving violation, your best bet is to hire a lawyer. We deal with the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles on a daily basis and we know what needs to be done. Our job is to make submissions for our clients to persuade the adjudicator to release your vehicle. The adjudicator has within seven days to render a decision from the date the review was held.
A better option, however, is to have the driving offence overturned. Not only will this clear your driving record but it will also get you your car back immediately and save you all of the expensive costs such as towing and storage fees.