Illinois Traffic Violation and DUI Lawyers

Vehicle Impoundments

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The City of Chicago may seize and impound your vehicle for many reasons. The steps necessary to retrieve your vehicle and contest the impoundment can be difficult and frustrating.

Fortunately, Driver Defense Team is very experienced at contesting impoundments. We have had great results at getting the impoundment overturned and getting money back for our client’s.

Read more below then contact our office.

The timeline of a vehicle impoundment case can range from one day to several months.

Preliminary Hearing

Once a vehicle is impounded the owner has 15 days to request a preliminary hearing. To request a preliminary hearing, the owner must show two things. They must show that they own the vehicle (with original registration or original title) and they must provide a government issued ID. At the preliminary hearing, arguments are made in regards to the City of Chicago’s initial documentation. The judge will either dismiss the case or continue it for a full hearing. That full hearing will take place in approximately 30 days.

Full Hearing

If a preliminary hearing is not possible, the owner can request a full hearing. The owner can request a full hearing two ways. They can mail the Hearing Request Form to the City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings. Or they can visit 400 W. Superior and request a hearing in person. The full hearing will take place approximately 21 days after that request.

At the full hearing, police officer(s) will be present to testify. It is also when the City of Chicago provides the owner with additional evidence they will use at a hearing (such as a drivers license abstract, laboratory reports, Alcohol Drug Influence Report, etc.). If the City is not prepared and they have a good reason as to why they are not prepared, the judge will grant the City one continuance. The judge will also grant the owner a continuance to prepare for the hearing. Once the judge continues the case, the next court date is in approximately 30 days.

Unfortunately, even after the City is granted a continuance, storage fees will continue to accrue.

Motion to Set Aside

If at any point the owner of the vehicle does not request a hearing, or misses their hearing, the City of Chicago will default the case. This means they will find liability based upon the owner’s failure to fight the case. After that default, the City mails a default notice to the owner and puts a stamped date on that notice. The owner then has 21 days from that stamped date to file a motion to set aside. The motion must be filed in court and must explain why they did not request a hearing/missed their hearing. If the judge grants that motion, the City will continue the case for a full hearing that will take place in approximately 30 days.


After a final decision, the owner of the vehicle has 35 days to appeal the case to the Circuit Court of Cook County on the 6th Floor of the Daley Center. The City of Chicago will not dispose of the vehicle until 45 days after a final judgment on the case.


As you can see, it is a very confusing process. There are many forms, rules and timelines that must be followed exactly. For this reason and many more, we recommend hiring a skilled attorney to handle this matter.

The Chicago traffic ticket lawyers at Driver Defense Team handles many impounds and thousands of Administrative Hearing cases each year. Please contact us for a free review of your case.

5 Common Questions Regarding Vehicle Impoundments

1. Am I liable even if I was not driving the vehicle or present at the time of the impoundment?

Yes. It is the owner of the vehicle who is liable to the City of Chicago when a vehicle impoundment occurs. There is no innocent owner defense. And simply not knowing who was driving your car the day of the impoundment will not be a defense to the violation.

2. My criminal case was dismissed, does that mean my impoundment will be too?

No. The criminal case and the impoundment case are completely separate. A finding of guilt or a dismissal of the criminal charges does not affect the impoundment. For example, if you were driving your vehicle with a suspended license and the vehicle was impounded when you were given a criminal citation, the dismissal of that criminal citation would have no relevance to the impoundment of your vehicle.

3. If there was no probable cause to pull the vehicle over, does that provide a defense to the impoundment?

No. Even if the police had no legal justification to stop the vehicle, the City of Chicago can still proceed with their impoundment case. Asserting that your rights under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution were violated does not provide a defense in an impoundment proceeding.

4. The car is worth more than the City of Chicago is charging to release the vehicle, can I just leave the car in the impound and forget about it?

It is never a good idea to ignore an impoundment case. Even if the owner never retrieves the vehicle or never fights the impoundment, the owner is still liable to the City for the fine under the ordinance and possibly tow and storage. The City can later take action to collect, including but not limited to taking tax returns and garnishing wages.

5. I never received notice from the City because they did not mail anything to my current address. More than 21 days have passed since the mailing date of default. Will this lack of notice enable me to reopen the case?

Ordinarily, no. All the City of Chicago is obligated to do under the ordinance is send notice to wherever the vehicle is registered with the Secretary of State. If the City can show that they mailed notice to this address, even if the owner proves they do not live there or have not lived at this location for years, then that notice will be sufficient.

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