Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Bill: H.B. 45 - Vehicle Impound Amendments

The Vehicle Impound Amendments bill I am running has been numbered as HB 45.

NOTE: The bill is just adding some additional language into existing code.  The underlined text is the new language.  Everything else is already existing law.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.  You can read more about the background on this bill HERE.


  1. I guess I could use a better explanation of the benefits of this bill.
    It seems to me that should someone be suspected of a hit-and-run the car isn't the primary concern.

    If the officer has reasonable suspicion they committed a criminal act they ought to be detained, and subsequently arrested should probable cause be established.
    Is a warrant still required to impound the vehicle when they have found probable cause and arrested its operator?

    I think the case could be made in nearly all situations that warrants slow down the process and hurt the officers ability to efficiently enforce the laws, but they are required for a reason; the USA was not intended to be a police state.

    Could you explain a little further why this loophole is required?

  2. Thanks for the question.

    I spoke to law enforcement to get some further clarification on this issue. When I previously indicated that warrants are required, I was mistaken.

    As it currently stands, if someone is suspected of a hit-and-run, their car is impounded without a warrant anyway. However, when documenting the crime and impounding the vehicle police will indicated that is was for "theft/possible theft". Obviously this is not the case and everyone involved knows that it was a hit-and-run but our legal code up until this bill has not provided a definition as such.

    This bill therefore provides a legal definition and helps clarify the documentation of such incidences for law enforcement.

    You can say that bill is rather subdued in its impact on daily life for everyone.

  3. I'm curious about where in the law officers are currently allowed to impound a vehicle for hit and run? The way I'm reading your bill, THIS bill is giving them that authority. I've been searching the Utah Code for where they are currently authorized to impound hit and run vehicles and have found no such authorization.

    If the current law doesn't allow a vehicle to be impounded for hit and run without a warrant, why are they currently doing it? And why is someone lying to you about what this bill is? Possibly they are also mistaken?

    Basically they are asking for permission to keep doing what they are already possibly illegally doing? Again maybe I'm misunderstanding, and I just haven't found where they are currently authorized to impound hit and run vehicles.

    If my conclusions are correct, and this bill authorizes this, are we sure we want the police to bypass the due process of obtaining a warrant before seizing property? "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law."

    I think this deserves some serious consideration and investigation on your part Mr Peterson before you go along with it. It sounds like from your last post that you introduced this bill without fully understanding it, and you are going off of the explanation of whoever wrote it, and that bothers me a bit.

    I would respectfully request that you dig deeper into the current law and why police are currently impounding vehicles without a warrant for people SUSPECTED of a crime. I would also request that you get clarification from your source as to why they think they are currently authorized to seize property without a warrant.


  4. Jared,

    Thank you for the questions. I appreciate them.

    I have spoken to several individuals in law enforcement, including UHP, and they have concurred that current practice is to impound vehicles that are involved in hit and run accidents under the auspices of 41-1a-1101-1(a)(i). In other words, fleeing the scene of an accident arouses the suspicion of theft and therefore allows the officers to detain the vehicle.

    Keep in mind that if you are driving a blue car and you hit somebody, your blue car will leave some traces of itself at the scene. Like the bumper in the photo accompanying this post. Or it may be paint chips or trimming or some other element. The police use this evidence to match the missing pieces found on suspected vehicles. The police will not be impounding all blue cars just because a blue car was involved in the accident.

    Also, there is typically paint, debris, or human tissue left on the suspect vehicle as well. This also can confirm suspicion of an involvement with a hit-and-run.

    What we have seen is an increase in hit-and-run type accidents over the last decade and law enforcement has had to adapt to this phenomena with laws that have not specifically addressed this issue. The section mentioned above has been, in my opinion, a legal crutch until the law could be amended, through this bill, to specifically address this situation.

    The courts seem to have agreed with this interpretation up to this point as well.

    Again, this bill is more housekeeping than granting broad powers to police. Police practices will be exactly the same as they are today. However, the code cited for it will be adjusted to reflect today's circumstances.

    Thanks again for your concern.

  5. The more I think about this the more it quirks me. It sounds like police have been using a loophole to get away with doing something they are not expressly given the power to do but feel justified in doing.
    It feels like this bill isn't "housekeeping" so much as changing the letter of the law to right their actions. I think the discussion that this bill should be sparking up is whether it is necessary and/or we gain anything by giving the police the authority to impound a car when they can not establish probably cause, or maybe even reasonable suspicion on the operator of the motor vehicle.

    I don't see why the police should have the authority to impound a vehicle if they don't have probable cause to arrest the suspect driving the vehicle. The person operating the vehicle is the threat (if you can establish probable cause that is), not the car.

    I don't think I would have a problem with allowing the police to take a picture of a car if they could establish reasonable suspicion on an alleged hit and run suspect. But if they don't even have the evidence to establish probable cause, I don't see why we should let them impound the car.


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