22651 CVC - California Vehicle Impound & Towing Laws (2023)

22651 CVC is the California law authorizing automobiles to be towed and impounded if the driver gets a DUI, has five unpaid parking tickets, or parks illegally on private property, in a handicapped space, at a bus zone, or anywhere that impedes traffic. Private property owners can legally call a tow truck operator to have a vehicle on its property hauled away without alerting the vehicle owner or local law enforcement agency.

22651 CVC - California Vehicle Impound & Towing Laws (1)

1. When does 22651 CVC allow police to tow and impound vehicles?

22651 CVC allows for nine main circumstances where local authorities may initiate the removal of vehicles by a tow truck:

  1. Parking in handicapped spots without proper plates or tags. Disabled parking is very limited in most public parking lots. Simply ticketing the car does not create more space for disabled drivers. So traffic officers often elect to tow these cars.
  2. The driver is arrested. This typically occurs following: A DUI.Drag racing (23109 VC). Or traffic stops where police see contraband in the car or find an activewarrantfor the driver.1
  3. Blocked flow of traffic. This is when a parked car obstructs the free flow of traffic. Or presents a safety risk.2
  4. Car accident. The person driving may be hospitalized. Or otherwise too injured or incapacitated to drive.3
  5. No registration. Even legally parked cars can get towed for: Missing license plates. No registration. Registration that was more than six (6) months expired. Or fake or forged vehicle registration and/or plates.4
  6. No license. When a driver of the vehicle gets caught driving without a valid driver’s license (12500 VC)ordriving on a suspended license (14601.1(a)).5
  7. Debt collection for past parking tickets. Even a lawfully parked automobile can get towed if: The owner has at least five unpaid parking citations. Or the owner failed to pay a municipal garage parking fee.6
  8. 72-hour ordinance. Some local laws require automobiles to be towed that are left parked for at least 72 consecutive hours.7
  9. Unlicensed car dealers. Cars being offered for sale by an unlicensed dealer get towed.8

Themajority of parking violations do not result in vehicle towing. But drivers have to make sure to take careof their tickets. As discussed above, racking upfive or more unpaid tickets gives law enforcement the legal authorization for impounding the automobile.

22651 CVC - California Vehicle Impound & Towing Laws (2)

22651 CVC permits the impoundment of certain automobiles in California.

(Video) Towing Laws: Know your rights

2. Can vehicles get impounded at DUI checkpoints?

Not if the driver’sonly offenseat theDUI checkpoint is driving without a license. But if an officer arrests the driver for DUI, then yes. The police department will take possession of the vehicle and have it impounded.9

3. Can my car be towed without warning?

Some parking spaces or streets havesignsthat warn about towing. And each parking ticket contains anotice that police have general authorization to call a tow company on repeat-offenders. But officers do not attempt to notify drivers before getting a towing company to impound the vehicle. And owners of private property can have vehicles towed from their property without giving notice.

4. How do people get back their impounded cars?

Legal owners of the vehicle should contact the impound lot at its telephone number for instructions as soon as possible after the time of the tow. If the impound lot is unknown, people can ask the local police. Lots should release towed vehicles to registered owners during normal business hours who present:

  1. A current driver’s license,
  2. Proof of current registration for the automobile, and
  3. Proof of insurance

Non-registeredownersmay claim impounded cars. But they will need aletter of written authorization from the owner.

5. How long can vehicles remain impounded?

Under the car towing laws in California, the removal of a vehicle is usually for a maximum of 30 calendar days. Then the lotwill hold a lien sale (auction). Therefore, people shouldclaim their automobiles before the auction.

22651 CVC - California Vehicle Impound & Towing Laws (3)

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Parking in a disabled spot is a circumstance that allows police to tow vehicles.

6. What does it cost to release an impounded vehicle?

Towing charges depend on the impound location. But it can be in the hundreds orthousands of dollars at the owner’s expense. Especially if the owner does not pick up the car right away. Impound lots typically accept cash, credit cards, and cashier checks for towing and storage fees.10

People will have to pay the followingfees:

  • Administrative fee
  • Towing fee
  • Transfer charge fee
  • Daily storage fee (storage charges get more expensive after the first 24 hours)
  • After hours gate fee (if applicable)
  • Lien fees (if applicable)
  • Auction fee (if applicable)

Often impound lots sellunclaimedcars at a loss. Then they willsue the car owner for the difference (“deficiency”). Depending on the amount, the case may be in small claims court.

7. Table of Storage / Impound / Forfeiture Authority Codes in California

Code number

(CVC unless otherwise specified)

Traffic Violation

(The automobile will be impounded in a storage facility unless otherwise specified)

731 SH Vending (selling) from a state highway.
5133(c) PUC Carrying household goods to sell without a permit.
9801 Seizure of automobile after delinquent registration payment.
10751(b) Possessing an automobile with an altered or missing VIN (vehicle identification number).
14602.5 Driving class M1 or M2 automobiles with a suspended or revoked license.

The car will be impounded for 6 months for a first conviction, 12 months for successive convictions.

14602.6 Driving with a suspended or revoked license or no license.

There will be a 30-day hold in the car.

14602.7 Fleeing a peace officer.

There will be a 30-day hold in the car.

14602.8(a) 2nd or subsequent DUI.

There will be a 5 – 15 day hold.

14607.6 2nd or subsequent driving with a suspended or revoked license or as an unlicensed driver (a misdemeanor).

The automobile may be forfeited.

22651(a) Leaving a motor vehicle unattended on a bridge or causeway.
22651(b) Obstructing or blocking traffic.
22651(c) Stolen or embezzled automobile on public land.
22651(d) Blocking private driveway.
22651(e) Blocking access to firefighters, such as being within feet of a fire hydrant or blocking a fire lane.
22651(f) Standing 4 hours on a freeway.
22651(g) Driver is incapacitated.
22651(h) Driver is arrested or served an order of suspension notice.
22651(i) The registered owner of the vehicle has 5 or more parking violations.
22651(j) Illegal parking with no license plate numbers or evidence of registration from the DMV (the Department of Motor Vehicles) displayed.

The car will remain impounded until the owner or person in control of the vehicle gives the impoundment company proof of identity and an address.

22651(k) Violating an ordinance by parking for more than 72 hours.
22651(l) Illegally parking in an area for road cleaning or construction.
22651(m) Parking illegally in an area other than for traffic flow.
22651(n) Illegal parking in violation of a local ordinance.
22651(o) Automobile registration is incorrect, falsified, or expired by more than 6 months.
22651(p) The driver is cited for driving without a license (12500 CVC) or driving with a suspended license (14601 CVC).
22651(q) Parking for more than 24 hours in a common interest development.
22651(r) Illegally parking while blocking a lawfully parked automobile.
22651(s) Parking for more than 8 hours at a roadside rest stop or viewpoint.
22651(t) Illegally flashing an amber warning light in violation of 25279 CVC.
22651(u) Acting as a car dealer without a license or temporary permit.
22651(v) Illegally letting stand a mobile billboard advertisement.
22651(w) 2nd or subsequent violation of an ordinance.
22651.2(a) Parking a vehicle with signs or placards advertising an event.
22651.3 Car is parked in an off-street parking facility, and the vehicle has 5 or more notices of parking violations.
22651.4 Violating the Interstate Commerce Commission by operating a foreign commercial vehicle.
22651.5 Parking an automobile with the alarm sounding.
22651.6 Having a speed contest.
22651.9 Parking a vehicle for the purpose of advertising it for sale.
22652 Unlawfully parking in handicapped spaces.
22652.6 Violating local ordinances.
22653 Leaving a stolen or embezzled car on private property.
22655(a) Hit and run.
22655.3 Using a vehicle to flee or evade.

The vehicle will be removed for investigation.

22655.5 Using a vehicle to commit a public offense.

The vehicle will be impounded for evidence.

22656 Leaving a vehicle on a railroad right-of-way.
22658 Abandoning a vehicle on private property without the property owner’s permission.

If the vehicle has been issued a notice of parking violation, and 96 hours have elapsed, the police may remove it.

22659.5 Using a vehicle for prostitution or illegal dumping of waste.
22660 Leaving a wrecked or inoperative vehicle.
22669 Leaving an abandoned vehicle.
23109.2 Participating in a speed contest.

The vehicle may be impounded for 30 days.

23224(c) Being under 21 with alcohol in a car.
27159 A diesel automobile is causing excessive pollution.
34506.4(a) Driving or parking a vehicle in an unsafe condition.
34506.4(b) Unlawful driving of a farm labor vehicle.
34506.5 Unlawfully driving a farm labor vehicle after a prior impoundment. The vehicle may be forfeited.

22651 CVC - California Vehicle Impound & Towing Laws (4)

Contact our California state law firm for criminal defense or personal injury representation.

(Video) Lawmaker wants to reintroduce bill to cover towing and impound fees for crime victims

Questions about California towing laws or predatory towing? Or have you been cited for a traffic infraction? We may be able to persuade the District Attorney to reduce or dismiss the charge. Contact our legal team at Shouse Law Group. Disclaimer: Results cannot be guaranteed.

In Nevada? See our article abouttowing and impoundment.

Legal References

  1. California Vehicle Code 22651(c), 22651(h) CVC.
  2. California Vehicle Code section 22651(a-b), (d-f), (l-n), (q-r) CVC; People v. Quick, 5 Cal. App. 5th 1006 (2016);People v. Nottoli, 199 Cal. App. 4th 531(2011).
  3. Same at subsection (g)
  4. Same at subsections (j) and (o)
  5. Same at subsection (p);People v. Suff, 58 Cal. 4th 1013 (2014).
  6. Same at subsection (i)
  7. Same at subsection (k)
  8. Same at subsection (u)
  9. 2814.2 CVC.
  10. California Civil Code Section 1748.1.

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What are my rights if my car is towed in California? ›

If your car is towed for any reason in California, remember that you have certain rights. These include: The right to know the grounds on which the vehicle was towed. The right to retrieve your personal property from the vehicle, even if you aren't able to pay for the vehicle itself to be released.

Can my car be towed without warning California? ›

In the state of California, it is legal for a private property owner to have a vehicle towed on his or her property without asking for permission from the state or police. This means that your vehicle parked on someone else's property can be towed at any point in time and without any warning.

Can your car be towed for expired registration in California 2022? ›

Your vehicle might be towed or impounded if it's been more than six months since your registration expired or if you've been cited multiple times for not having your new tags placed on your license plate.

How long before a tow company can sell your car in California? ›

In ordinary circumstances, a towing company can hold your vehicle for a maximum of 28 days before legally having your vehicle released. For commercial motor vehicles, the time limit is ten business days.

What is vehicle code 22651? ›

22651 CVC is the California law authorizing automobiles to be towed and impounded if the driver gets a DUI, has five unpaid parking tickets, or parks illegally on private property, in a handicapped space, at a bus zone, or anywhere that impedes traffic.

What happens when your car gets impounded in California? ›

When a car is impounded it means the government holds onto it for you. You can get it back, but you have to pay fees that can be very expensive. It is much better for you if it's never impounded at all. In small number of DUI cases, you could actually lose ownership of your car and it becomes government property.

Can someone else get my car out of impound California? ›

The person must have a note signed by the registered owner authorizing the vehicle's release and a photocopy of the registered owner's driver's license or other acceptable identification; the signatures on the note and the photocopied ID must match.

How do I sue a towing company in California? ›

If a towing company owes you $10,000 or less, then you can sue in a California small claims court. If you are owed more than $10,000, you can still sue in small claims, but you agree to waive any additional amount you are owed.

Can Police tow car on private property in California? ›

(A) Owners or persons in lawful possession of private property may request the towing away of illegally parked vehicles under the authority of Cal. Veh. Code § 22658(a).

Can a car be impounded for expired registration in California? ›

If you continue driving with expired tags for over 6 months, your vehicle can be impounded under California Vehicle Code § 22651(0)(1).

Can my car be towed from my driveway for expired tags California? ›

A vehicle can indeed be towed away – provided its registration tags have been expired for more than six months, according to section 22651 (o) (1) (A) of the California Vehicle Code.

How do I get my impound fee waived in California? ›

If you want to waive or fight the fees, you can dispute it, go to court, or have a third party fight on your behalf. In some cases, if you can prove homelessness or low income, you can have them waived. If you need to pay the impound fees but cannot, taking out a loan or borrowing from friends are two options.

Can a towing company sell my car in California? ›

If fees are not paid, then the towing company can legally sell parts or your whole vehicle to cover fees and costs.

What is maximum length for towing in California? ›

California Legal Truck: The 65-foot maximum length limit for vehicle combinations is codified in CVC Section 35401 which is copied here in part: 35401. (a) "... a combination of vehicles coupled together, ..., may not exceed a total length of 65 feet."

How much does it cost to get car out of impound in California? ›

Your expenses don't end with the impound and storage fees. If you want the city to release the vehicle back to you, there is an additional $115.00 release fee that you must pay. Failure to pay these fees will result in a lien getting placed on the title of your vehicle.

How much is a 30 day impound in California? ›

The storage fees may vary by company and average about $45 per day including weekends when our office is not open to issue releases. “After hours” pick up of your vehicle from the tow yard could cause additional fees to be added by the tow company. Ensure you get your vehicle released promptly.

Do you need proof of ownership of a vehicle to get belongings out at tow lot Ohio? ›

Proof of ownership must be presented by the insurance company or agent at the time of vehicle release. Salvage or towing companies must have a notarized letter of authorization to pick up a vehicle on behalf of an insurance company.

What is vehicle impound and seizure? ›

Any police officer or other person authorised in this behalf by the State Government may, if he has reason to believe that the driver of a motor vehicle who is charged with any offence under this Act may abscond or otherwise avoid the service of a summons, seize any licence held by such driver and forward it ito the ...

How long can police keep your car? ›

If the vehicle remains unclaimed at the end of that 14 day period - whether it's been abandoned, the owner cannot be found, or the owner has actively chosen not to pick it up - then it'll be disposed of. The police might do this in one of several ways.

What happens to cars impounded by police? ›

What happens when my vehicle is impounded? The police will call for a tow truck to take your vehicle away to a storage yard. The police officer must fill out an impounding notice in the proper form, and give copies to you, to the owner (if that's not you), and to the tow-truck operator.

Can a police officer impound your car on the spot? ›

If you're caught driving while disqualified a police officer can impound your car on the spot. When you are disqualified from driving it means you are not entitled to hold or obtain a driver's licence.

Can someone else collect my impounded car? ›

Someone else can collect on your behalf. They need to bring: a letter of authority, signed by you, giving them permission to collect property from the vehicle. a copy of your passport or driving licence so we can verify the letter is signed by you.

Can someone else with insurance get my car out of impound? ›

Can someone else get my vehicle out of impound? As the registered owner, it is your responsibility to receive your vehicle. This means you should attend the police station or pound yourself, with documents proving ownership.

How do you get around the impound fee? ›

If you cannot afford to pay the fees to get your car out of impound, there are a couple of other options:
  1. Ask the impound lot about payment assistance programs or other financing options.
  2. Look into any community action programs or groups for assistance.
  3. Use a credit card or any emergency fund you have saved.
27 Sept 2022

Who regulates tow companies in California? ›

The Vehicle Tow and Storage Board regulates and issues a Vehicle Tow and Storage Permit to anyone operating a tow truck or tow vehicle in California, as defined in Section 615 of the Vehicle Code, or enforcing a lien on a vehicle pursuant to Section 3068.1 of the Civil Code.

How do you not get scammed by a towing company? ›

Make sure the tow truck driver is the one you or police called. Carefully read anything the tow truck driver asks you to sign. Make sure you know where the driver is taking your car. Get a receipt that shows the towing fee.

What is ab2210? ›

(2) A person who knowingly charges a vehicle owner a towing, service, or storage charge at an excessive rate, as described in subdivision (h) or (i), is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than ...

Can a repo man enter private property California? ›


A repossession licensee or its agent does not have the authority to enter a private building or a secured area without the consent of the property owner or the person in lawful control of the private property to repossess a vehicle. A secured area means any place that is fenced and locked.

Can police enter private property without permission California? ›

Police cannot just come into people's homes at will in California. There must be lawful consent to enter from a person with the authority to let the police into the house. If they do not have a search warrant (or arrest warrant), the police cannot enter a home without valid consent from a homeowner or lawful resident.

Can police remove vehicles from private land? ›

Where vehicles have been left on private land, we can only remove the vehicle once approved by the landowner. If you have a letter from the landowner, please upload it when using the online form. When we receive permission to remove the vehicle we will investigate, and if it is classed as abandoned, we will remove it.

What is penalty for expired vehicle registration in California? ›

Registration late fee. CHP late fee. 1 – 10 days* – 10% of the vehicle license fee due for that year. – 10% of the weight fee due for that year (if any).

How long can you ride around with expired tags? ›

And according to most states, there is no amount of time you can drive with expired tags. It's automatically an offense, although police officers may decide not to issue you a ticket if you promise to get your tags renewed. In some cases, you may just get a warning or a small fine.

What is the grace period for expired tags in California? ›

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not offer a grace period for paying your annual vehicle registration fees. Be sure to pay your renewal fees on or before the expiration date shown on your current registration card, or DMV will charge penalties.

Can you call a tow truck if someone is blocking your driveway California? ›

When to Tow a Car Blocking Your Driveway. California law gives you the right to tow a car blocking your driveway immediately if it is a residential property. As long as there are no more than four housing units on your residential property, you can call a tow company and have the vehicle removed right away.

Can my car be impounded for expired license disc? ›

Traffic officials can now impound vehicles on the spot for several reasons. This includes if a vehicle's licence is expired for more than 90 days, or when a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Impounded vehicles not collected within three months will be sold or destroyed.

Can a vehicle be towed for parking on a sidewalk in California? ›

A vehicle parked in violation of that law can be cited and/or towed, even if the sidewalk is partly clear, or if a vehicle is parked in a driveway. Furthermore, sidewalk parking violates the rights of those with disabilities to use the sidewalks free of hazards established in the Americans With Disabilities Act.

What is an illegal tow in California? ›

A California law protects consumers against the worst of illegal towing. Under AB 2210, if you spot a tow truck driver taking your car, and the tow truck is still on private property, the driver must release your car to you unconditionally.

How much can a towing company charge in California? ›

The legal owner must pay the lien holder [ie: shop] a maximum amount of $1500.00 for work or services performed on the vehicle by the auto repair dealer and $1025.00 for towing and storage. If a lien sale or court action is filed, the maximum towing and storage charges are increased to $1250.00.

Can you sell a car while impounded? ›

Can I sell my car, even though it is impounded? You can probably sell a car which is locked up in a police pound but the sale has to be a genuine one. Firstly the new owner will have to insure the car. Quotes can be compared here.

How do I get my car back after repossession in California? ›

To reinstate your loan, you must bring your loan current. This means paying all missed payments, interest, and late fees, plus any repo expenses and default charges. You can only reinstate your loan once every 12 months and a total of two times over the course of your loan.

How do I get ownership of an abandoned vehicle in California? ›

How do I obtain the ownership of an abandoned vehicle on my property in California? Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to determine if you can claim title to an abandoned vehicle. Ask your friend to claim it as abandoned on his property and once he gets title to it have him transfer it to you.

What is the 85 towing rule? ›

For safe towing it is recommended by many towing experts that a novice should keep the fully laden weight of the caravan no heavier than 85% of the kerbweight of the tow car. This is known as the 85% rule. Bear in mind that it is a guide and not legally enforceable.

What is the 80/20 rule for towing? ›

The 80/20 towing rule is a safety measure many RVers follow. Basically, the rule states that you shouldn't tow above 80% of your max towing capacity. This gives room for human error in calculations. It also protects the life of your vehicle by not pushing it to the max every time you tow your trailer.

What is the California Kingpin law? ›

The state of California requires all tractor-trailer combinations to meet the King Pin to Rear Axle (KPRA) law. What does that mean to professional drivers? The center of the rear axle on all trailers must be at the 40-foot mark or shorter and must not weigh over 34,000 pounds on the trailer axles.

Can a towing company keep my personal belongings in California? ›

Only personal property such as clothing, papers, tools, baby seats or other easily removable items can be recovered from an impounded vehicle. Nothing can be removed from an impounded vehicle requiring the use of tools such as the battery, tires, radio, amplifiers, speakers or other items.

How long can a car be impounded in California? ›

Vehicles will be towed and impounded for up to thirty (30) days for, but not limited to, the following reasons: Unlicensed driver. Driver has suspended or revoked license. Driver is restricted from operating a vehicle without an adult (over 25) present (has learners permit only)

Can a repo company charge you to get your belongings in California? ›

The repo company can charge you for storing your personal effects. You'll have to pay the storage fees to get your things back.

How long can someone leave their belongings on your property California? ›

Landlords cannot throw out personal belongings in California until the proper abandoned property proceedings have been followed. First, the landlord must notify the tenant and give them 18 days to respond to that notice. If that 18 day period passes with no response, the landlord is then free to dispose of the items.

What year trucks are allowed in California 2022? ›

Trucks with 2007 model year engines or newer are fully compliant through December 31, 2022. Most often, these trucks can be identified by their green 2020 or 2022 label.


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