Chapter 11.18
VEHICLE IMPOUNDMENT

Sections:

11.18.010    Applicable state law adopted by reference.

11.18.020    Impounds authorized in addition to RCW 46.55.113.

11.18.030    Impoundment of a vehicle where driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.61.502, 46.61.504, 46.20.342 or 46.20.420 – Period of impoundment (replaces portions of RCW 46.55.120).

11.18.040    Redemption of impounded vehicles (replaces portions of RCW 46.55.120).

11.18.050    Post-impoundment hearing procedures.

11.18.070    Contract for towing and storage – Administrative fee.

11.18.010 Applicable state law adopted by reference.

Provisions of Chapter 46.55 RCW as adopted by WAC 308-330-406 are hereby incorporated into this chapter by this reference, except as specifically provided herein. [Ord. 1999-04-020].

11.18.020 Impounds authorized in addition to RCW 46.55.113.

In addition to the impound situations that are authorized pursuant to RCW 46.55.113, a Bellingham police officer or any person authorized in writing by the chief of police to enforce city parking ordinances may take custody of a vehicle and provide for its prompt removal to a place of safety under the following circumstances:

A. When the vehicle is impeding or is likely to impede the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or

B. When the vehicle is illegally occupying a truck, commercial load zone, bus, loading, taxi, or other similar zone where, by order of the director of engineering or chiefs of police or fire, parking is limited to designated classes of vehicles or is prohibited during certain hours on designated days or at all times, and where such vehicle is interfering with the proper and intended use of such zones; or

C. When a vehicle is parked in a public right-of-way or on publicly owned or controlled property in violation of any law, ordinance, or regulation and there are four or more parking infractions issued against the vehicle for each of which a person has failed to respond, failed to appear at a requested hearing, or failed to pay an adjudicated parking infraction for at least 45 days from the date of the filing of the notice of infraction. [Ord. 2002-09-064 § 1; Ord. 1999-04-020].

11.18.030 Impoundment of a vehicle where driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.61.502, 46.61.504, 46.20.342 or 46.20.420 – Period of impoundment (replaces portions of RCW 46.55.120).

A. Whenever the driver of a vehicle is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.61.502, 46.61.504, 46.20.342 or 46.20.420, the vehicle is subject to impoundment at the direction of a police officer.

B. If a vehicle is impounded because the driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(c) and the Washington Department of Licensing’s records show that the driver has been convicted one time of a violation of RCW 46.20.342 within the past five years, the vehicle shall be impounded for 15 days.

C. If a vehicle is impounded because a driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(c) and the Washington Department of Licensing’s records show that the driver has been convicted two or more times of a violation of RCW 42.20.342 within the past five years, the vehicle shall be impounded for 30 days.

D. If the vehicle is impounded because the driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(a) or (b) and the Washington Department of Licensing’s records show that the driver has not been convicted of a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(a) or (b) within the past five years, the vehicle shall be impounded for 30 days.

E. If a vehicle is impounded because the driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(a) or (b) and the Washington Department of Licensing’s records show that the driver has been convicted one time of a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(a) or (b) within the past five years, the vehicle shall be impounded for 60 days.

F. If a vehicle is impounded because a driver is arrested for a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(a) or (b) and the Washington Department of Licensing’s records show that the driver has been convicted two or more times of a violation of RCW 46.20.342(1)(a) or (b) within the past five years, the vehicle shall be impounded for 90 days.

G. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (B) through (F) of this section, a rental car business may immediately redeem a rental vehicle it owns by payment of the costs of removal, towing, and storage, whereupon the vehicle will not be held for a suspended license impound.

H. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (B) through (F) of this section, a motor vehicle dealer or lender with a perfected security interest in the vehicle may redeem or lawfully repossess a vehicle immediately upon payment of the costs of removal, towing, and storage, whereupon the vehicle will not be held for a suspended licence impound. [Ord. 2000-12-083; Ord. 1999-04-020].

11.18.040 Redemption of impounded vehicles (replaces portions of RCW 46.55.120).

Vehicles impounded by the city shall be redeemed only under the following circumstances:

A. Only the registered owner, a person authorized by the registered owner, or one who has purchased the vehicle from the registered owner, who produces proof of ownership or authorization and signs a receipt therefor, may redeem an impounded vehicle. A person redeeming a vehicle impounded pursuant to BMC 11.18.030 must prior to redemption establish that he or she has a valid driver’s license and is in compliance with subsection (B) of this section. A vehicle impounded pursuant to BMC 11.18.030 or 11.18.020(C) can be released only pursuant to a written order from the police department, the hearing examiner or a court.

B. Any person so redeeming a vehicle impounded by the city shall pay the towing contractor for costs of impoundment (removal, towing and storage) and the administrative fee imposed pursuant to BMC 11.18.070, prior to redeeming such vehicle. Such towing contractor shall accept payment as provided in RCW 46.55.120(1)(b), as now or hereafter amended. If the vehicle was impounded pursuant to BMC 11.18.030 upon the driver’s arrest for violation of RCW 46.20.342 or 46.20.345 as adopted by reference in the Bellingham Municipal Code and was being operated by the registered owner when it was impounded, it may not be released to any person until all penalties, fines or forfeitures owed by the registered owner have been satisfied.

C. The hearing examiner is authorized to release a vehicle impounded pursuant to BMC 11.18.030 prior to the expiration of any period of impoundment upon the petition of the spouse or domestic partner of the driver, based upon economic or personal hardship to such spouse or domestic partner resulting from the unavailability of the vehicle and after consideration of the threat to public safety that may result from the release of the vehicle, including but not limited to, the driver’s criminal history, driving record, license status, and access to the vehicle. If the release is authorized, the person redeeming the vehicle still must satisfy the requirements of subsections (A) and (B) of this section.

D. Any person seeking to redeem a vehicle impounded as a result of a parking or traffic citation has a right to a hearing before the hearing examiner to contest the validity of an impound or the amount of the removal, towing, and storage charges or administrative fee if such request is in writing, in a form approved by the hearing examiner and signed by the person, and is received by the hearing examiner within 10 days (including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) of the earlier date of the date the notice was mailed to such person pursuant to RCW 46.55.110, or the date the notice was given to such person by the registered tow truck operator pursuant to RCW 46.55.120(2)(a). Such hearing shall be provided as follows:

1. If all the requirements to redeem the vehicle, including the expiration of any period of impoundment under BMC 11.18.030, have been satisfied, then the impounded vehicle shall be released immediately and a hearing as provided for in this subsection (D) shall be held within 90 days of the written request for hearing.

2. If not all the requirements to redeem the vehicle, including expiration of any period of impoundment under BMC 11.18.030, have been satisfied, then the impounded vehicle shall not be released until after the hearing provided pursuant to this subsection (D), as soon as the hearing examiner deems reasonable, but not to exceed 10 business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) of the hearing examiner’s receipt of the written request for hearing.

3. Any person seeking a hearing who has failed to request such hearing within the time specified in this subsection (D) may petition the hearing examiner for an extension to file a request for hearing. Such request shall only be granted upon the demonstration of good cause as to the reason(s) the request for hearing was not timely filed. For purposes of this section, good cause shall be defined as circumstances beyond the control of the person seeking the hearing that prevented such person from filing a timely request for hearing. In the event such extension is granted, the person receiving such extension shall be granted a hearing in accordance with this chapter.

4. If a person fails to file a timely request for a hearing and no extension to file such a request has been granted, the right to a hearing is waived, the impoundment and the associated costs of impoundment and administrative fee are deemed to be proper, and the city shall not be liable for removal, towing, and storage charges arising from the impoundment.

5. In accordance with RCW 46.55.240(1)(d), a decision made by the hearing examiner may be appealed to Bellingham municipal court for final judgment. A person appealing such a decision must file a request for an appeal in municipal court within 15 days (including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) after the decision of the hearing examiner and must pay a filing fee in the same amount required for filing of a suit in district court. If a person fails to file a request for an appeal within the time specified by this section or does not pay the filing fee, the right to an appeal is waived and the hearing examiner’s decision is final. [Ord. 2001-04-026; Ord. 2001-03-017; Ord. 2000-11-077; Ord. 1999-04-020].

11.18.050 Post-impoundment hearing procedures.

Hearings requested pursuant to BMC 11.18.040 shall be held by the hearing examiner. The hearing examiner shall determine whether the impoundment was proper and whether the associated removal, towing, storage, and administrative fees were proper. The hearing examiner shall not have the authority to determine the commission or mitigation of any parking infraction.

A. At the hearing, an abstract of the driver’s driving record is admissible without further evidentiary foundation and is prima facie evidence of the status of the driver’s license, permit, or privilege to drive and that the driver was convicted of each offense shown on the abstract. In addition, a certified vehicle registration of the impounded vehicle is admissible without further evidentiary foundation and is prima facie evidence of the identity of the registered owner of the vehicle.

B. If the impoundment is found to be proper, the hearing examiner shall enter an order so stating. In the event that the costs of impoundment (removal, towing, and storage) and administrative fee have not been paid or other applicable requirements of BMC 11.18.040 have not been satisfied or any period of impoundment under BMC 11.18.030 has not expired, the hearing examiner’s order shall also provide that the impounded vehicle shall be released only after payment to the city of any fines imposed on any underlying traffic or parking infraction and satisfaction of any other applicable requirements of BMC 11.18.040(B) and payment of the costs of impoundment and the administrative fee to the towing company and after expiration of any period of impoundment under BMC 11.18.030.

C. If the impoundment is found to be improper, the hearing examiner shall enter an order so stating and order the immediate release of the vehicle. If the costs of impoundment and administrative fee have already been paid, the hearing examiner shall enter judgment against the city and in favor of the person who has paid the costs of impoundment and administrative fee in the amount of the costs of impoundment and administrative fee.

D. In the event that the hearing examiner finds that the impound was proper, but that the removal, towing, and storage or administrative fees charged for the impoundment were improper, the administrative hearings officer shall determine the correct fees to be charged. If the costs for impoundment and the administrative fees have been paid, the hearing examiner shall enter a judgment against the city and in favor of the person who has paid the costs of impoundment and administrative fee for the amount of overpayment.

E. No determination of any facts made at a hearing under this section shall have any collateral estoppel effect on a subsequent criminal prosecution and such determination shall not preclude litigation of those same facts in a subsequent criminal prosecution.

F. An appeal of the hearing examiner’s decision in municipal court shall be conducted according to, and is subject to, the procedures of this section. If the court finds that the impoundment or removal, towing, storage, or administrative fees are improper, any judgment against the city shall include the amount of the municipal court filing fee. [Ord. 2000-11-077; Ord. 1999-04-020].

11.18.070 Contract for towing and storage – Administrative fee.

A. If a vehicle is impounded pursuant to BMC 11.18.020(C) or 11.18.030, an administrative fee shall be levied when the vehicle is redeemed.

B. The administrative fee shall be collected by the contractor performing the impound and shall be remitted to the finance department and deposited in an appropriate account. The administrative fee shall be for the purpose of offsetting, to the extent practicable, the cost to the city of implementing, enforcing, and administering the provisions of this chapter. The administrative fee shall be calculated and set by the chief of police in an amount not to exceed $100.00. [Ord. 1999-04-020].