All links to code sections on this page will open in a new window.
California law provides for specific circumstances under which a vehicle can be towed, as listed below. Most tow authorities, as these reasons are called, can be found on this page (link will open in a new window).
If a vehicle is to be released from a tow yard outside of normal business hours, an additional fee may legally be charged by the facility for the after-hours release.
If the vehicle is not released and picked up from the storage facility after a certain period of time (generally 45-60 days), the storage facility may conduct a lien sale of the vehicle; the proceeds will be used to satisfy the tow/storage fees with any additional amount obtained through the sale being refunded to the owner of the vehicle.
Private Party Tow: Under California Vehicle Code (CVC) §22658, any property owner or person in lawful possession may have unauthorized and/or abandoned vehicles removed from their property, under the following circumstances:
• The vehicle is is on property that contains a single-family dwelling (i.e., a residential driveway), or
• The vehicle has been issued a a notice of parking violation (i.e., a red tag, private citation, or other similar notice) and 96 hours (4 full days) have elapsed since the notice was issued, or
• The vehicle lacks an engine, transmission, wheels, tires, doors, windshield, or any other major part or equipment necessary to operate safely on the highways, the owner or person in lawful possession of the private property has notified the local traffic law enforcement agency (within City limits, Lancaster Sheriff's Station), and 24 hours have elapsed since that notification, or
• The are signs displayed in plain view, at all entrances to the property, prohibiting public parking and stating that vehicles will be removed at the vehicle owner's expense (see §22658(a)(1) for signage requirements).
The owner of the vehicle is responsible for all costs associated with the removal, including tow fees and storage fees. Property owners who have a vehicle removed under this section may use the services of any tow company and storage yard they wish that meets CVC requirements.
All other tows (not at the vehicle owner's request): There are two types of tows by law enforcement/other public agencies: impounds and storage. Generally speaking, a vehicle will be impounded if the reason it is being towed requires a hold for a set period of time (ex., 30-day hold) or for a certain reason until no longer needed (i.e. used as evidence); most other tows are storage and may be released at any time provided the registered owner or legal owner provides the appropriate documentation to the towing agency and pays the applicable fees. An (I) for impound or an (S) for storage will follow the CVC section for each tow authority listed below.
Vehicles impounded or stored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deparment, within the Lancaster Sheriff's Station patrol area, will be towed by and stored at one of the two following contracted tow yards:
• Clark & Howard (North), 42429 3rd Street East, Lancaster, CA 93535, (661) 940-8112
hours 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Saturday
• Sierra Automotive & Towing, 45813 Division Street, Lancaster, CA 93535, (661) 945-4521
hours 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday
The tow fee for both yards, when the vehicle is towed at the direction of Sheriff's Department personnel, is $122, and storage fees are assessed at $30/day beginning with the day the vehicle is towed (including weekends and holidays). For a vehicle impounded under a 30-day hold, the total tow/storage fees (not including the City release fee) will be $1,022, plus $30 for each additional day the vehicle remains in storage. Tow and storage fees are paid to the tow yard, NOT the agency authorizing the tow.
To have a vehicle towed by Sheriff's Department personnel released from storage/impound, the registered owner or legal owner of the vehicle must visit the Lancaster Sheriff's Station lobby (501 West Lancaster Boulevard; open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and pay a release fee, currently $80 for vehicles towed within City limits. The person obtaining the release will be required to show current & valid government-issued identification; if the owner of the vehicle does not have a current & valid driver's license, a person in possession of a current & valid driver's license must accompany the owner. Proof of current registration or a valid temporary operating permit may be required before a release will be authorized. Receipts will be issued, which must then be taken to the tow yard to prove that the release of the vehicle has been authorized.
To have a vehicle towed by California Highway Patrol personnel released from storage/impound, the registered owner or legal owner of the vehicle will need to visit the Antelope Valley CHP Station (2041 West Avenue I; open 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday). Proof of identity and/or a current & valid driver's license will be required, and proof of the vehicle's current registration may be required. If the owner of the vehicle does not have a current & valid driver's license, a person in possession of a current & valid driver's license must accompany the owner. CHP does not charge a fee for release of the vehicle. Make sure to get the name, address, and phone number of the tow yard at which your vehicle is stored prior to leaving the CHP office, as there are several throughout the Antelope Valley with which CHP contracts.
The following are reasons why a public agency, such as law enforcement/CHP or a parking enforcement authority, may remove (tow) a vehicle. Please note that certain violations listed below have a hold, meaning that the vehicle cannot be released from impound until the requisite number of days have elapsed from the time it was towed.
When a particular circumstance qualifies for citation or tow under more than one section, only one section may be used each calendar day; for example, if the vehicle's registration is more than 6 months expired, it may be cited for a violation of §5204(a) CVC or towed per §22651(o)(1)(A) CVC, but not both. However, often there are multiple (though closely-related) circumstances; an example would be a vehicle with expired registration displaying a registration tab from another vehicle. In this particular circumstance, the vehicle could be cited for the expired registration (§5204(a) CVC), AND towed for illegally displaying a registration sticker that was not issued to that vehicle (§22651(o)(1)(B) CVC).
Note: Throughout this page you will see the word "highway." Under §360 CVC, a highway is defined as "a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel," and includes streets.
§14602.6 CVC (I): The vehicle operator is driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license, was never issued a driver's license, or was driving on a restricted license per §13352 or §23575 CVC (driving under the influence (DUI)) and operating the vehicle without a functioning, certified ignition interlock device. There is a 30-day hold on vehicles impounded for under this section.
§14602.8 CVC (I): A peace officer determines that the vehicle operator has had a conviction under one or more CVC sections relating to DUI within the last 10 years, and the person a) has a blood-alcohol level (BAC) or .10 or greater, or b) refuses to submit to or complete a chemical test when requested. For one conviction within the prior 10 years, there is a 5-day hold placed on the vehicle. For two or more convictions within the last 10 years, there is a 15-day hold placed on the vehicle.
§22651(a) CVC (S): The vehicle is left unattended on/in any bridge, tunnel, tube, viaduct, or causeway and is creating a traffic obstruction.
§22651(b) CVC (S): The vehicle is parked or left standing on a highway and is obstructing traffic or creating a traffic hazard.
§22651(c) CVC (I/S): The vehicle is found on a highway or any public lands and has been reported as stolen or embezzled. (See §22653(a) CVC below for private property.)
§22651(d) CVC (S): The vehicle is illegally parked blocking the entrance to a private driveway, and it is impractical to move the vehicle from in front of the driveway to another point on the highway.
§22651(e) CVC (S): The vehicle is illegally parked blocking access to a fire hydrant by fire fighting equipment, and it is impractical to move the vehicle from in front of the fire hydrant to another point on the highway.
§22651(f) CVC (S): The vehicle is stopped, parked, or left standing on a freeway for more than 4 hours, and there is no driver present or the vehicle is disabled.
§22651(g) CVC (S): On a highway or any public lands, the person in charge of the vehicle becomes incapacitated by injuries or illness to the extent that they cannot provide for the custody or removal of the vehicle themselves.
§22651(h) CVC (I/S): An officer arrests the person driving the vehicle and takes them before a magistrate (i.e., takes them into custody and brings them before a judge, rather than issuing a "Notice to Appear"), or serves a notice of suspension or revocation of the vehicle operator's driver's license for failing a breathalyzer or other chemical test or refusing to take such a test to determine the driver's BAC.
§22651(i) CVC (I): The vehicle (other than a rented vehicle) is known to have been issued 5 or more parking citations that are now delinquent, and is found on a highway or any public lands. A vehicle towed under this section must first have all the outstanding citations for the impounded vehicle and any/all other vehicles registered to the same owner paid-in-full, and all traffic violations assigned to the registered owner must be cleared, before a release will be authorized. If a vehicle towed under this section goes to lien sale, the proceeds of the lien sale will first be used to satisfy the tow/storage fees, with any remaining proceeds then used to satisfy the outstanding citations (per §22851.1 CVC). If the proceeds from the lien sale are not sufficient to satisfy the outstanding citations, the issuing agency or agencies will have a deficiency claim against the registered owner of the vehicle, meaning that state tax refunds may still be intercepted, or other collection action taken, to satisfy the remaining balance.
§22651(j) CVC (S): The vehicle is illegally parked and has no license plates or other evidence of registration (such as a valid temporary operating permit) displayed. A visible vehicle identification number (VIN), by itself, does not count as evidence of registration.
§22651(k) CVC (S): The vehicle is left parked or standing on a highway for more than 72 hours in violation of local ordinance (§10.04.230 LMC). Vehicles towed under this section may be issued a red tag prior to removal, though this is not required. Under the City ordinance, a vehicle is deemed to have not moved when, after 72 hours, it is found parked or standing less than 300 feet or one block (whichever is greater) from the boundary or lot line of the property abutting the vehicle's original position.
§22651(l) CVC (S): The vehicle is parked on a highway in violation of a local ordinance prohibiting standing or parking (whether a standard prohibition, or a conditional prohibition for activities such as maintenance, etc.), the use of the highway or a portion of it is necessary for the cleaning, repair, or construction of the highway or for the installation of underground utilities, and signs indicating that the vehicle may be removed have been erected/placed at least 24 hours prior to the time of removal.
§22651(m) CVC (S): The vehicle is parked on a highway that has been authorized for a use other than the normal flow of traffic (such as parades, special events, adjacent construction, etc.) or for the movement of unusually-sized equipment, articles, or structures, the parking of the vehicle would prohibit or interfere with that use or movement, and signs indicating that the vehicle may be removed have been placed/erected at least 24 hours prior to the time of removal.
§22651(n) CVC (S): The vehicle is left parked or standing where local authorities, by ordinance or resolution, have prohibited parking and authorized the removal of vehicles, and signs are posted giving notice that vehicles may be removed.
§22651(o)(1)(A) CVC (S): The vehicle is found or operated on a highway, any public land, or an offstreet parking facility with registration expired over 6 months before the vehicle was found or operated. This section may be enforced in any alley and publicly-available parking lot where a fee is not charged, such as a retail shopping center or a business parking lot; private parking lots (such as apartment complexes) and pay-to-park lots do not count under this section. Even if a temporary operating permit is displayed, if that permit is expired then the six-month period is counted starting from the date of expiration of the last actual registration of the vehicle. Any vehicle towed under this section may only be released upon proof of current registration and driver's license.
§22651(o)(1)(B) CVC (S): The vehicle is found or operated on a highway, any public land, or an off-street parking facility and is displaying in or on the vehicle a registration card, identification card, temporary receipt, license plate, special plate, registration sticker, device issued per §4853 CVC (commercial vehicle apportioned registration stickers, etc.), or permit that was not issued for that vehicle, or is otherwise not lawfully used on that vehicle under CVC. See §22651(o)(1)(A) above for applicable parking lots where this section may be enforced. This section may be enforced regardless of the current validity or date of expiration of the vehicle's actual registration. Any vehicle towed under this section may only be released upon proof of current registration and driver's license.
§22651(o)(1)(C) CVC (S): The vehicle is found or operated on a highway, any public land, or an off-street parking facility and is displaying in or on the vehicle a registration card, identification card, temporary receipt, license plate, special plate, registration sticker, device issued per §4853 CVC, or permit that is altered, forged, counterfeit, or falsified. See §22651(o)(1)(A) above for applicable parking lots where this section may be enforced. This section may be enforced regardless of the current validity or date of expiration of the vehicle's actual registration. Any vehicle towed under this section may only be released upon proof of current registration and driver's license.
§22651(p) CVC (S): The driver of the vehicle is issued a notice to appear (misdemeanor citation) for a violation of §12500 (driver's license never issued), §14601, §14601.1, §14601.2, §14601.3, §14601.4, §14601.5 (relating to driving with a suspended or revoked license), or §14604 CVC (vehicle owner allowing a person to drive with a suspended/revoked license or no license), and the vehicle is not impounded per §22655.5 CVC (see below). A vehicle towed under this section may be removed from a highway/other public land, or from private property after having been on a highway/other public land (such as if the law enforcement officer authorizing the tow had attempted to initiate a traffic stop on a public street, but the driver pulled over onto private property). Any vehicle towed under this section may not be released without a court order unless the registered owner (or his/her accompanying agent or agent in possession of a notarized letter to that effect from the registered owner) presents a current & valid driver's license and proof of the vehicle's current registration.
§22651(q) CVC (S): The vehicle is parked on a portion of the highway within the boundaries of a common interest development (as defined in California Civil Code §1351) for more than 24 hours, signs meeting the requirements of §22658 CVC are posted indicating that vehicles parked more than 24 hours may be removed, and a local ordinance or resolution has been passed to that effect.
§22651(r) CVC (S): The vehicle is illegally parked and is blocking the movement of a legally parked vehicle (ex., double-parked, etc.).
§22651(s) CVC (S): The vehicle is stopped, parked, or left standing for more than 8 hours at a roadside rest stop or viewpoint (10 hours for commercial motor vehicles as defined in §15210(b)(1) CVC).
§22651(t) CVC (S): A peace officer issues a notice to appear for a violation of §25279 CVC (relating to flashing amber warning lights on unauthorized vehicles).
§22651(u) CVC (S): A peace officer issues a citation for a violation of §11700 CVC (relating to unauthorized/unlicensed vehicle dealers) and the vehicle towed is being offered for sale at the time of removal.
§22651(v) CVC (S): The vehicle is a mobile billboard advertising display (as defined in §395.5 CVC), is parked in violation of a local ordinance or resolution adopted under §21100(m) CVC, and signs are posted or a warning citation for a violation of the ordinance or resolution was previously issued to that vehicle.
§22651.2 CVC (S): The vehicle is found on a highway or any public lands, due to the size and placement of signs or placards on the vehicle it appears the primary purpose of parking the vehicle is to advertise to the public an event or function, the vehicle is known to have been previously issued a notice of parking violation (i.e., red tag or citation) warning that an additional violation may result in the vehicle's impoundment, and the registered owner has been mailed a notice advising of the violation and warning that an additional violation may result in the vehicle's impoundment. This section does not apply to vehicles bearing signs or placard advertising any business or enterprise carried on by or through the use of that vehicle (such as subcontractors, day care providers, etc.).
§22651.3 CVC (I): The vehicle (other than a rented vehicle) is parked in a public offstreet parking facility, and either a) is known to have been issued five or more notices of parking violation (i.e. citations) over a period of five or more days to which the owner of the vehicle has not responded, or b) is illegally parked blocking the movement of a legally parked vehicle (ex., parked in the traffic lane behind an occupied parking space, etc.). The vehicle may not be released from impound until the registered owner furnishes to the impounding law enforcement agency satisfactory proof of identity (eg., current & valid government-issued identification), an address within California at which the owner can be contacted, and proof that the bail (fine) for each of the citations has been paid. In lieu of proof of payment, the agency may at its discretion issue a notice to appear, or the owner can demand to be taken before a judge without unnecessary delay to argue their case.
§22651.4 CVC (I): A peace officer or member of the California Highway Patrol may impound a vehicle and its cargo for violations of §34517 or §34518 CVC (relating to registration, certification, and operation of commercial cargo transport vehicles, both foreign and domestic, and/or drivers of such vehicles having an outstanding warrant in a California county).
§22651.5 CVC (S): The vehicle is parked on any highway, on public or private property within a residential or business district, or within 500 feet of any occupied building of any school, community college, or university (during normal operating hours), a complaint has been received (from any person), the vehicle's horn or alarm device is either continuously or intermittently and repeatedly activated, the officer authorizing the tow cannot locate the owner of the vehicle within 20 minutes from his/her time of arrival, and the horn or alarm device is not completely silenced prior to removal.
§22651.6 CVC (I): The vehicle was used in a motor vehicle speed contest (as defined in §23109(a) CVC) and the driver of the vehicle was arrested and taken into custody for that offense. Related: §23109.2(a) CVC allows for the impoundment of a vehicle, with a 30-day hold, when the driver is arrested and taken into custody for a motor vehicle speed contest, reckless driving on a highway or in an offstreet parking facility (as described in §23103 CVC), or an exhibition of speed on a highway (§23109(c) CVC).
§22652 CVC (S): The vehicle is illegally parked in a designated disabled parking space, on a disabled parking space crosshatch area, or blocking a disabled parking space (see §22507.8 CVC). Related: §22652.6 CVC allows for the removal of a vehicle from these places that is displaying a disabled placard or plate a) reported to DMV as lost, stolen, surrendered, cancelled, revoked, or expired, or issued to a person reported as deceased at least 60 days, or b) on a vehicle not being used to transport the authorized person to whom it was issued and not in the reasonable proximity of that person, or c) that is counterfeit, forged, altered, or mutilated.
§22653(a) CVC (I/S): The vehicle is found on private property and has been reported as stolen or embezzled.
§22653(b) CVC (S): The vehicle was involved in and left at the scene of an accident on private property, and no owner is available to grant permission to a peace officer to remove the vehicle (after a reasonable period of time). This section does not apply when the owner is contacted and actively refuses permission to a peace officer to remove the vehicle. However, active refusal of permission by the owner does not necessarily preclude the owner or person in lawful possession of the property on which the vehicle is left from requesting a private party tow as permitted in §22658 CVC.
§22653(c) CVC (S): The driver or person in control of a vehicle is arrested and taken before a judge for an alleged offense, the vehicle is left on private property, and the owner or person in control of the property requests the vehicle's removal. (This is separate from private party tows as detailed at the top of this page.)
§22655 CVC (I): A peace officer has reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run accident and that the vehicle operator failed to stop and comply with §§20002-20006 CVC. The vehicle may be removed from a highway or from public or private property (except from an enclosed structure on private property that is not open to the public), for up to 48 hours (not including weekends or holidays) to allow for inspection and determination of the vehicle's involvement in the accident. If the vehicle is a commercial vehicle, any cargo it carries may be removed or transferred to another vehicle during the inspection period.
§22655.3 CVC (I/S): With certain exceptions and limitations, the vehicle is used to flee or evade a peace officer and is abandoned by the suspect(s) on property other than that of the vehicle's registered owner.
§22655.5 CVC (I): The vehicle is found on a highway or public or private property, and a peace officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle either a) was used in a public offense (crime), or b) contains or is evidence of a public offense. With some exceptions, vehicles impounded as evidence under this section are not subject to lien sale.
§22656 CVC (S): The vehicle is parked or abandoned on or within 7 1/2 feet of any railroad track, street rail, or light rail, and is within the right-of-way of the railroad. Vehicles may also be removed from within railroad right-of-ways greater than 7 1/2 feet from the nearest rail, if signs to that effect are posted.
§22659.5 CVC (I): The vehicle is, by local ordinance, declared a public nuisance due to having been used during the commission or attempted commission of certain crimes relating to pimping, procuring for prostitution, prostitution, and/or illegal dumping, the owner or operator of the vehicle has had a prior conviction for one or more of the applicable sections within the previous 3 years, and that person is arrested for violation of one or more of these sections. There is a 30-day hold on vehicles impounded under this section. (Also see Chapter 9.30 LMC.)
§22660 CVC (S): The vehicle, by local ordinance (see Chapter 10.08 LMC), is determined to be abandoned and is declared a public nuisance. Vehicles towed under this section may be removed even from private property, except from within enclosed structures where the vehicle or parts cannot be seen from the street or other properties, from the property of licensed dismantlers, vehicle dealers, or junk dealers, or when the storage of the vehicles or parts is necessary to the operation of a lawfully conducted business or commercial enterprise.
§22669(a) CVC (S): The vehicle is abandoned (as determined under §22523 CVC) and is parked on any highway or on public or private property.
§22669(d) CVC (S): The vehicle is parked on any highway or public right-of-way and is missing any parts or equipment necessary to operate safely on California highways (including but not limited to an engine, a transmission, a windshield, tires, wheels, or doors). These vehicles are declared by CVC to be a hazard to the public health, safety, and welfare.