Vehicle Impoundment

Definition: A driver’s vehicle is seized or impounded as a sanction against hard core offenders.

Executive Summary: The punishment of removing an offender’s vehicle is usually an overnight occurrence but if the offender is a recidivist or is driving with a suspended license, it can be for a longer period of time. Hundreds of dollars in fines can be accrued based on the offender and the time of impoundment. This sanction can vary by jurisdiction and by state.

More Detail: Research has demonstrated vehicle impoundment to be consistently effective in reducing DUI offenses among convicted drinking drivers. Vehicle impoundment helps reduce the convicted drunk drivers’ likelihood of re-offending even after other sanctions have been completed.

Vehicle impoundment provides a public measure of protection for the period of time it is in use but effectiveness can be limited by offender avoidance and also judicial reluctance to impose and enforce such measures. Some offenders simply have no regard for the law and will drive until they are caught and punished. Even if they are sentenced to jail for a time, they will drive again once they are released from custody.

Many judges fail to impose measures like impounding vehicles because of the cost attached or because they worry about being the cause of an offender’s job loss or them not being able to take care of family, for example.

Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges

Additional Resources:

  • Repeat Offenders and Persistent Drinking Drivers in the U.S. James Hedlund and James Fell NHTSA, NTS-20, 400 Seventh St SW, Washington, DC 20590, USA
  • Voas, R.B.; Tippetts, A.S.; and Taylor, E. Temporary vehicle immobilization: Evaluation of a program in Ohio. Accid Anal Prev 29(5):635-642, 1997.
  • Voas, R.; Tippetts, A.; and Taylor, E. Temporary vehicle impoundment in Ohio: A replication and confirmation. Accid Anal Prev 30(5):651-656, 1998.
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)