Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Charges and Mandatory Impoundment of the Vehicle

The impoundment of motor vehicles of suspected intoxicated drivers is now mandatory. Whenever a person has been arrested for a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 for drunk driving or for refusing to submit to a breath test, the arresting officer must impound the motor vehicle that the defendant was operating. The vehicle must remain in impound for at least 12 hours. The law enforcement agency that impounds the vehicle may charge a reasonable fee for towing and storage of the vehicle. The vehicle may continue to be impounded until the fee has been paid.

After the initial 12 hour waiting period, either the defendant or his agent may reclaim the vehicle. The owner or lessee of the vehicle (who is other than the defendant or an authorized agent of the defendant when the defendant is the owner), may reclaim the vehicle prior to the expiration of the 12 hour waiting period provided that such person can meet certain statutory requirements. These include:

1. Presentation of current driving credentials, including a valid license, proof of ownership, proof of lawful authority to operate a vehicle, and proof of current liability insurance;

2. Proof that the operator is capable of operating a vehicle in a safe manner and would not be in violation of any provision of the motor vehicle statutes.

3. Proof that the person receiving the vehicle can comply with any other conditions for release of the vehicle that have been established by the arresting law enforcement agency.

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