Impound Autos In DUI Cases? State Practices Differ

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In Florida, authorities routinely lock up drunken drivers’ cars for as long as three months, the Kansas City Star reports. In Nebraska, they can, too. But state officials are hard-pressed to name even once that happened.

Today, 12 states — from California to Vermont — allow authorities to impound cars after DUIs, a penalty supported by national traffic safety officials and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Impoundment is a strategy that works, federal studies show. But law enforcement officials and defense lawyers locally and in other states warn of pitfalls. Next month, Kansas will begin allowing authorities to impound vehicles after DUI convictions. Under the new law, a judge can order a driver’s vehicle held for up to a year after a first offense.

Among the practical difficulties: Where do authorities put impounded cars? What about relatives of the driver who may need to use the vehicle? Another question: How onerous should penalties be for impaired driving? In Chicago, the Department of Revenue prints three pages of instructions for drunks to get back their cars.


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