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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 Chapter 46.55 RCW by reference; others have adopted the Model Traffic Ordinance (MTO) (Chapter 308-330 WAC) which includes those provisions. Some jurisdictions basically restate the provisions of the state law or the administrative code in local ordinances.

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 (this includes publicly-owned parking lots as well as other property). This can be a useful tool for jurisdictions, but be sure to have adopted an ordinance and to post the affected properties. A few jurisdictions have added a provision to impound vehicles for unpaid parking fines.

Cities, towns, and counties should carefully review Chapter 46.55 RCW and the MTO before adopting or amending supplemental vehicle impoundment provisions.


Statutes and Regulations

  • 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 46.55.360-.370 – Mandatory impoundment after arrest for driving under the influence
  • Ch. 308-61 WAC – Unauthorized and abandoned vehicles
  • WAC 308-330-406 – Abandoned, unauthorized, and junk vehicle tow truck operators – RCW sections adopted by reference into Model Traffic Ordinance

Examples of General Impound Codes

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


Examples of Impoundment for Suspended or Revoked Licenses Codes

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


Last Modified: September 30, 2022