Author: Lt. Glenn McElderry
Date: September 12, 2011 7:00 PM

Adjustment Made To 30 Day Vehicle Impound Policy

San Rafael, CA – September 12, 2011. Effective September 16, 2011, San Rafael Police will modify the department’s 30 day vehicle impound policy.

Police Chief Jeff Franzini has reviewed San Rafael’s current Traffic Safety goals, the local enforcement programs, current local traffic statistics, and various statewide policies pertaining to the implementation of the vehicle impound section (Sect. 14602.6) of the California Vehicle Code (CVC).  The Chief has also met with several community groups that represent the majority of those who have been affected locally by the 30 day vehicle impounds.  After considering all of these factors Chief Franzini has made an adjustment to the current impound policy.  This change will be for a six month trial period that the Chief firmly believes will not have a major impact upon the Department’s ability to address Traffic Safety within San Rafael.

“Driving without a valid driver’s license is still illegal in the State of California, and that has not changed in San Rafael.  Anyone stopped by the police will still be dealt with through our local court system,” said Chief Franzini.  Unlicensed drivers who can be identified will still be cited and released, and those who cannot be identified will still be booked at the Marin County Jail.  All violations for driving without a license will continue to be handled by the Marin County District Attorney’s Office.  First time violations are filed as an infraction, and a second or subsequent violation would be filed as a misdemeanor.

This modification will bring San Rafael’s policy in line with the majority of enforcement agencies throughout Marin and Sonoma County.  “The Office of Traffic Safety is conducting a survey of all California law enforcement agencies on how they are handling impounds.  Our office has done a similar survey in Marin and Sonoma Counties and this change will bring us closer to uniformity in the North Bay,” said Chief Franzini.

Currently in San Rafael, a vehicle owner whose car has been impounded for the full 30 days can expect to pay about $2,200 to retrieve the vehicle.  The City charges $264 for a vehicle release and the tow companies towing and storage fees are approximately $1,900.  “I am making a measured adjustment as to when and for how long we impound a vehicle under CVC section 14602.6.  My hope is that this change will address some of the community hardship concerns about the high costs and the long waiting period (30 days) before a vehicle may be released, while still enforcing the law and protecting the public,” said Chief Franzini.  If a vehicle is not impounded, it would save the registered owner all of the release and towing/storage fees.  If the vehicle is impounded and released before the full 30 days, then the registered owner would avoid higher impound costs. 

After the six month trial period, the department will compare the statistical data pertaining to accidents, hit and run’s, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests, and the number of first time unlicensed driver citations vs. those with a second or more violation resulting in a 30 day impound to see if there has been any significant changes. A decision will be made at that point to either revert back to San Rafael’s original policy, make the above changes permanent, or implement any other changes that seem reasonable based on the data.

The policy changes are more fully described below:

When a vehicle is stopped for a traffic violation or at a DUI checkpoint and the driver is found to be unlicensed:


Before Effective September 16, 2011
Vehicle would only be released in the field to a licensed driver that was the registered vehicle owner Vehicle may be released to any licensed adult present at the time

First violation for driving without a license:


Effective September 16, 2011
Vehicle was impounded for 30 days. The registered owner would have to wait for 30 days before they could obtain a release from the Police Department to pick up their vehicle Vehicle may be impounded but the registered owner will not need to wait the full 30 days. They will still need to provide proof of insurance, current registration, have a validly licensed driver with them to pick up the car, and pay all applicable fees

Second (or more) violation for driving without a license or any violation of driving with a suspended license and/or for a person involved in any other misdemeanor or felony charge:


Before: Effective September 16, 2011
Vehicle was impounded for 30 days. The registered owner would have to wait for 30 days before they could obtain a release from the Police Department to pick up their vehicle No Change


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Last Modified: September 15, 2011 12:55 EDT (by Holm)

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