Can Police Tow my Car if they Arrest Me in New Jersey?

tow truck

Having your car towed is a horrible position to be in, especially when it happens because you are being arrested. If police impounded your vehicle while arresting you in New Jersey, it is important to know when and why law enforcement is allowed to do this under the law. This article examines the circumstances that can lead to your car getting towed as part of an arrest in New Jersey and what happens in the aftermath. To discuss the circumstances of your arrest after being charged with a crime in Edison, New Brunswick, Woodbridge, Piscataway, South Amboy, or anywhere else in Middlesex County, contact us at (732) 659-9600 today. A member of our team is available immediately to assist you and we provide free consultations.

When Can a Police Officer Arrest me at a Traffic Stop?

Before police can initiate a traffic stop, they must have reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime or violation of New Jersey’s traffic laws has taken place. The two main exceptions to this rule are stops at DWI sobriety checkpoints and border crossings. To have reasonable suspicion, an officer must have more than a hunch. Police officers must have specific, articulable facts supporting their decision to briefly detain a driver in New Jersey. If an officer conducts a traffic stop supported by reasonable suspicion, they cannot simply arrest you without meeting further legal requirements. For example you may be arrested if officers identify additional evidence of a criminal offense, providing probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. Probable cause will be based on the totality of the circumstances before them. In other words, seeing drugs in your car in plain view or smelling marijuana coming from the vehicle meets the probable cause requirement to arrest you.

Can Police Tow my Car when Arresting me?

If officers establish reasonable suspicion and probable cause to arrest you after a traffic stop, they may then legally tow and impound your car in several different circumstances. If an officer pulls you over, arrests you, and determines that your vehicle has not been properly registered, the officer is entitled to tow and impound that unregistered vehicle under N.J.S.A. 39:3-4. The officer may also impound your vehicle you are driving without insurance in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2. If an officer initiates a traffic stop and determines that you are driving with a revoked or suspended license, that officer is authorized by N.J.S.A. 39:3-40 to tow your vehicle.

In cases involving DWI and DUI charges, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 authorizes an officer to tow and impound a vehicle driven by someone who was driving while intoxicated. In fact, cars being towed after people are arrested for DWI is among the most common scenarios involving impounded vehicles in New Jersey. When police arrest you for drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs, they are legally empowered to tow your vehicle and keep it impounded for a minimum of 12 hours.

Furthermore, a vehicle may lawfully be towed if it is abandoned, blocks traffic, or is disabled, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-136. Similarly, an officer may impound your vehicle if the vehicle presents a danger to the public based on its condition or the location where it is stopped. Finally, an officer is entitled to tow and impound a car that contains evidence of a possible or known crime. This is another very common situation in New Jersey. If you are stopped and police find cocaine, marijuana, heroinprescription drugs, or another controlled substance in your car, they can then impound your vehicle and arrest you.

My Vehicle was Impounded when I got Arrested in Middlesex County, NJ

New Jersey officers are permitted to perform a routine vehicle inventory search of cars that they have towed. Police carefully catalogue all the items found in the car so that people arrested cannot sue them for taking items from their car or allowing items to be stolen from their car while it was in police custody. Officers are also permitted to recover contraband from the car during a vehicle inventory search, including drugs, drug paraphernaliaguns, stolen items, and the like. Such contraband can be used against you at trial. You will also usually have to pay steep impound fees to recover your car. These fees can often be very expensive, sometimes even exceeding the value of older cars. An experienced criminal attorney can advise you regarding the potential implications of a vehicle search in your particular case. For additional information and specific answers to your questions, call (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.