If you are caught driving and have a revoked or suspended driver’s license, Gilbert will impound your car. The same is true if you never had a driver’s license, if you are arrested for Extreme DUI or Aggravated DUI, if you are under the legal drinking age and have any alcohol in your body, or if you are operating a vehicle without a certified ignition interlock device and you’re supposed to have one.
Gilbert’s policy isn’t uncommon in Arizona. What is uncommon, at least as far as I can tell, is what Gilbert does after it takes your car. Take a second and read this. To me, it sounds like all you have to do to get your car back is show up on the 30th day, pay the town their fee, get the release form, pay the tow company, and present your paperwork to them. Doesn’t it make it sound like you only need a hearing if you want your vehicle back before the 30 days are up? This also makes me think you only need a hearing if you want your vehicle back in less than 30 days. However, that page also adds the interesting twist that you must request your hearing during the first 10 days after your vehicle is impounded if you want a hearing at all.
The pamphlet the Gilbert Police give you when they impound your vehicle also indicates that the only reason you would need a hearing is to get your car back early. The only difference I can find between the pamphlet and the website is that the website says the towing company has 10 days after the 30 days are up before they can file for an abandoned title to your vehicle, whereas the pamphlet says they can do that right after the first 30 days are up.
Here’s what amazes me: you cannot get your vehicle back from the Gilbert Police Department unless you have a hearing. That’s right, they don’t tell you that you must request a hearing, but if you show up on the 30th day looking for your car, they will make you call the “hearing hotline” and schedule a hearing. It may take you a couple of weeks to get a hearing, and one person I spoke with confirmed that you won’t get a hearing at all if you don’t request it within the first 10 days. On top of that, I know of one instance where either the town or the towing company had filed for a lien by the 32nd day of impound, though the police were nice enough to give that person a hearing date despite the fact she did not request it in the first 10 days.
Basically, the town takes your car for 30 days and doesn’t tell you that you must request a hearing to get it back. When you show up on the 30th day, you are ready to pay the fee but can’t get your car because you didn’t request the hearing they didn’t tell you about. There may already be a lien on your car, and you may never get a hearing at all because you didn’t ask for it in the first 10 days, though you didn’t know you had to ask for it. If they do give you a hearing, it will probably not be until after they have filed for a lien. On top of that, if they really are weeks behind scheduling these things, you might not get a hearing by the 30th day even if you do request it in the first 10 days.
The final kicker is that, when I spoke with someone from the “hearing hotline,” they informed me that the hearings are held in front a Town of Gilbert police officer and happen every 30 minutes on weekdays. Not a judge, not a commissioner, and not even an admin law judge. A cop. Does anyone else, like me, wonder if the Town of Gilbert is in the business of stealing cars?