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Impound fees are required payments for an impounded vehicle. Vehicles may be impounded by the police or other law enforcement officers for a variety of reasons and violations. Impound fees may vary by jurisdiction and may also alter depending on the circumstances leading to the car's removal.
If a person violates certain traffic laws, such as parking illegally, his or her car may be ticketed and eventually towed to an impound lot. People found committing vehicular crimes, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, are often subject to the seizure of the vehicle by law enforcement. Another common reason for vehicle impounding may be lack of driver's license or valid registration. Recovered stolen cars may also be impounded until the owner can be contacted, but these fees may be less expensive.
Impound fees may cover a variety of services involved in the process of seizing and holding a vehicle. Some common fee breakdowns include towing fees, unclamping fees, and storage fees. These charges are in addition to any fines or tickets incurred through the violations that led to the impounding of a vehicle. Many regions have regulations that lay guidelines for impound fees, but be aware that fees may be quite high and will continue to accrue as long as the car is held.
If a person cannot afford to pay impound fees, the law enforcement agency that seized the car may be able to sell it in a public auction after a certain amount of time has passed. The sale price will go toward paying off the impound debt, but may not be enough to cover all fees. If the vehicle has been held for several months, an indebted owner may still find him or herself owing the impound lot even after hope of getting the vehicle back is lost.
In many jurisdictions, it is possible to challenge impound fees in court. Generally, these cases are heard in small claims or a similar low dollar-value court. An owner suing for the dismissal or return of impound fees must be able to show that the car was unlawfully impounded. Owners can also sometimes sue private impound lot businesses, if there is evidence that shows the impound business willfully put off attempts to pay fees or collect the car in order to keep charging additional storage fees. Owners may also sue for the payment of fees if the car was impounded while another person was borrowing the vehicle or using it without permission. Since most regions make the owner responsible for payment regardless of whether he or she was in the car at the time, suing may be the only way to recover fees caused by the negligence of another driver.