Vol. 26 No. 24 – New Rules Limiting Impounding Cars at Dui Checkpoints


Assembly Bill 353, sponsored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 9, 2011. The Bill imposes new rules to be followed regarding the seizing and impounding of vehicles, driven by unlicensed drivers (VC 12500), at sobriety checkpoints.

The authority to seize the vehicle, as well as how long the government can hold the impounded car, are both significantly changed from what has been the law up to now. The new law takes effect as of 1/1/12.


AB 353 adds section 2814.2 to the Vehicle Code. It reinforces the obligation of a driver to “stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint inspection,” when it is conducted by a law enforcement agency and when signs and displays have been posted requiring the stop. The Bill also imposes new obligations on law enforcement when they discover someone is driving without a license.

For example, AB 353 states that while conducting a sobriety checkpoint, “if the law enforcement officer encounters a driver who is in violation of section 12500, the law enforcement officer shall make a reasonable attempt to identify the registered owner of the vehicle.” (Emphasis added.)

The legislation does not define what would be considered “reasonable,” nor what efforts should be expended to locate the registered owner, if he or she is not present at the time of the stop.

What the new law does state is that “(i)f the registered owner is present, or the officer is able to identify the registered owner and obtain the registered owner’s authorization to release the motor vehicle to a licensed driver by the end of the checkpoint, the vehicle shall be released . . . .” (Emphasis added.)

As such, the legislation has, in effect, established a period of time during which the registered is to be located and for he or she to arrange for someone to retrieve the vehicle. Once the checkpoint is shut down, any vehicles not retrieved up to then, would be impounded.

However, Vehicle Code 14602 has also been modified to require the release of the vehicle in a time shorter than the 30 days, which was previously allowed, if certain conditions are met.

The law states that “upon presentation of the registered owner’s or his or her agent’s currently valid driver’s license . . . and proof of current vehicle registration,” the vehicle “shall” be released, “at any time the facility to which the vehicle has been removed is open.”


The requirements established by AB 353 apply only to sobriety checkpoints. If an officer makes contact with a driver under other circumstances, and he/she has never been licensed, there is no obligation to take these steps. However, if a city or county conducts a sobriety checkpoint it must be prepared to follow the new law.

From a practical perspective, it appears that additional personnel will be needed at the checkpoint to undertake the “reasonable attempt” to locate the registered owner. It is also important to note that, unless the driver is the registered owner, he or she doesn’t have the right to authorize another person, albeit a licensed driver, to drive the vehicle; only the registered owner has that right.

As in all matters involving the law, it is imperative that you receive advice and guidance from your agency’s legal advisor.

As always, if you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail, feel free to contact me at (714) 446 – 1400 or via e-mail at mjm@jones-mayer.com.

Information on www.jones-mayer.com is for general use and is not legal advice. The mailing of this Client Alert Memorandum is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.