Here's when they can tow, tow, tow your car away

In the state of Oregon, for what traffic violations can one be cited and released by a city police officer (wherever or whenever one happens to be pulled over), yet have one's vehicle towed away?

— SJ, Jacksonville

There are four reasons that police can impound a vehicle under traffic offenses, not counting hazard tows and towing a vehicle as evidence.

ORS 809.720 is what covers the impoundment of vehicles for specified offenses. It states "a police officer who has probable cause to believe that a person, at or just prior to the time the police officer stops the person, has committed an offense described in this subsection may, without prior notice, order the vehicle impounded until a person with right to possession of the vehicle complies with the conditions for release or the vehicle is ordered released by a hearings officer."

The four things covered under this subsection are:

  • Driving while license is suspended or revoked
  • Driving while under the influence of intoxicants
  • Operating without driving privileges or in violation of license restrictions
  • Driving while uninsured

Under these criteria, at least for our department, you are most often going to get towed for, in order, DUII, DWS, uninsured, and then no driving privileges. No driving privileges may include expired licenses, no motorcycle endorsement, or young drivers driving outside their provisional license restrictions and we seldom impound a vehicle just for those reasons, although by law we could. Our primary goal, besides towing DUIIs, is to tow the multi-time offender who constantly drives while suspended or without insurance. Sometimes that's our best remedy because if they're already suspended, then they just ignore the ticket and keep on driving.

To get the vehicle back, you must show you own or have an interest in the vehicle, show proof of insurance, and have a licensed driver available to drive the vehicle from the tow yard. If you provide those three things, then you must pay the release fee to the police and the tow fee to the tow company, and the vehicle is yours again.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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