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.
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.
- Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Ch. 10.32 – Impoundment of vehicles
- Fife Municipal Code Sec. 10.04.090-.320 – Administration and enforcement – Impoundment
- Fircrest Municipal Code Ch. 9.10 – Impoundment of vehicles
- Lewis County Code Ch. 10.30 – Vehicle impoundment and redemption
- Seattle Municipal Code Ch. 11.30 – Impounding
- Sunnyside Municipal Code Ch. 10.04 – Adopts standards in accordance with Ch. 46.55 RCW, amends Ch. 10.04 regarding vehicle impoundment
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.
- Bellevue Municipal Code Sec. 11.80.015 – Vehicle impoundment following license suspension or revocation authorized
- Island County Code Sec. 10.06.060 – Impoundment of vehicles driven by suspended/revoked drivers
- Marysville Municipal Code Sec. 11.04.100 – Impoundment of vehicle where driver is arrested for violation of RCW 46.20.005, [...] – Period of impoundment
- Seattle Municipal Code Sec. 11.30.105 – Impoundment of vehicle where driver is arrested for a violation of Section 11.56.320 B or C or Section 11.56.020 – Period of impoundment
- Skamania County Code Ch. 10.54 – Impoundment of vehicles driven by suspended/revoked drivers