skip navigation

Impoundment of Vehicles

This page provides an overview of state laws and examples of local ordinances in Washington State allowing law enforcement officers to impound vehicles.


Overview

Law enforcement officers are authorized to impound vehicles under circumstances set out in state law (Ch. 46.55 RCW). Some jurisdictions adopt the provisions of Ch. 46.55 RCW by reference; most have adopted the Model Traffic Ordinance (MTO) (chapter 308-330 WAC) which includes those provisions.

Other jurisdictions basically restate the provisions in local ordinances and often include detailed provisions, such as those of RCW 46.55.113(g) with a list of parking restrictions subject to towing.

Under RCW 46.55.240, a city, town, or county may, by ordinance, authorize other impound situations that may arise locally upon the public right-of-way or other publicly owned or controlled property. A few jurisdictions have added a provision to impound vehicles for unpaid parking fines.

Cities, towns, and counties should carefully review the MTO before adopting or amending supplemental vehicle impoundment provisions.


Legal References

  • Ch. 46.55 RCW – Towing and Impoundment
    • RCW 46.55.113 – Removal by Police Officer
    • RCW 46.55.230 – Junk vehicles - Removal, disposal, sale - Penalties - Cleanup, restitution payment
    • RCW 46.55.240 – Local Ordinances - Requirements
    • RCW 46.55.350-.370 – Mandatory Impoundment After Arrest for Driving Under the Influence
  • Ch. 308-61 WAC – Unauthorized and Abandoned Vehicles
  • WAC 308-330-406 (Model Traffic Ordinance) – RCW sections adopted -- Abandoned, unauthorized, and junk vehicle tow truck operators

Examples of General Impound Ordinances

The following ordinances provide examples of general local impound regulations; these examples, however, may not have been amended since passage of Laws of 2011, Ch. 167 and thus may not reflect all current statutory requirements governing the impound of vehicles by police officers set out by RCW 46.55.113.


Impoundment for Suspended or Revoked Licenses

The following ordinances provide examples of local impound regulations under RCW 46.55.113. These examples, however, may not have been amended since passage of Laws of 2011, Ch. 167 and thus may not reflect all current statutory requirements governing the impound of vehicles by police officers set out by RCW 46.55.113.


Last Modified: October 10, 2019