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The City of Portland, Oregon

Police Bureau

Sworn to protect. Dedicated to serve.

Phone: 503-823-0000

Non-Emergency: 503-823-3333

1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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0630.60 Vehicle Disposition

*This directive is currently under review*



  • ORS 133.535 Permissible Objects of Search and Seizure
  • Portland City Code 14C.10 Police Duties to Inventory Property
  • Directive 630.61 Stolen Vehicles
  • Directive 650.00 Search, Seizures and Inventories
  • Abandoned Auto Officer Intake Form (Records)
  • Notice of Tow (Records)



1.1.  The purpose of this policy is to establish the rules and procedures for seizing or impounding vehicles by Bureau members.


2.1.  No definitions


3.1.  Members may seize or impound vehicles when doing so is lawful and consistent with the provisions of this directive. Members will comply with the procedures mandated by Portland City Code 14.C.10 and DIR. 650.00 Search, Seizures, and Inventories relating to inventory of persons, vehicles and property. Members should exercise discretion in impounding vehicles under circumstances that may create undue hardship or risk to the occupants. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to, the presence of young children, elderly or disabled persons, or a vehicle equipped for use by such persons.


4.1.  Warrant

4.1.1.  Members may seize a vehicle when a warrant to seize the vehicle exists.

4.2.  Community Caretaking Guidelines

4.2.1.  Members may impound a vehicle under this section only when primarily motivated by the community caretaking issue presented by the vehicle rather than any punitive or investigative motivation.

4.2.2.  Members should not impound a vehicle under this section based solely on the arrest and/or issuance of a citation to the driver, owner or occupants; however, such circumstances may be relevant for other reasons such as the resulting inability of persons to lawfully operate or move the vehicle from its present location. Lack of insurance alone does not support a community caretaking impoundment.

4.2.3.  Members should not impound a vehicle under this section if the owner or person in control of the vehicle consents to have a lawful driver, who is present at the scene, safely move the vehicle to a location that no longer presents a community caretaking issue. Members may wait for such a person to arrive, but are not required to if such person is not present at the time the officer requests tow service.

4.3.  Members may impound a vehicle when the vehicle presents one or more of the following community caretaking issues:

4.3.1.  PUBLIC SAFETY: The vehicle is an immediate danger to public safety. This includes, but is not limited to, vehicles the officer reasonably believes, based on the nature, condition and location of the vehicle, present an immediate danger to any person, including vehicles the officer reasonably believes contains explosives, toxic or dangerous chemicals, or substances that present an immediate danger to any person.  Procedure: Members will issue a notice of impound and complete a tow report then request the vehicle towed to a private tow lot. An investigation report or parking citation is not required.

4.3.2.  HAZARD: The vehicle is impeding, or likely to impede, the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. This includes, but is not limited to, vehicles blocking a traffic or bicycle lane, private or public driveway, and vehicles impeding the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic on streets, parking lots or other premises open to the public.  Procedure: Members will issue a notice of impound and complete a tow report then request the vehicle towed to a private tow lot. Members will issue a parking citation if required.

4.3.3.  SAFEKEEPING: The member has taken the driver of the vehicle into custody or caused a driver to stop driving the vehicle and it is reasonable under the circumstances to remove the vehicle from a public or exposed location for safekeeping to protect it, or its contents, from theft or damage, or to protect the City of Portland from liability related to the vehicle and contents.  This includes, but is not limited to, high-value vehicles or vehicles with high­ value contents; vehicles that cannot be secured due to the circumstances, location, design or condition of the vehicle; vehicles in locations that have an increased likelihood of theft or damage; vehicles in locations that increase the likelihood of damaging other property; and vehicles in locations that the member believes a person in control of a vehicle would not customarily leave the vehicle unattended for extended periods of time.  Procedure: Members will issue a notice of impound and complete a tow report then request the vehicle be towed to a private lot. An investigation report or parking citation is not required.

4.3.4.  ILLEGALLY PARKED: The vehicle is illegally parked in a posted restricted space, zone, or traffic lane at any time and place where the vehicle is interfering or reasonably likely to interfere with the intended use of such a space, zone, or traffic lane; or the vehicle is illegally parked within 10 feet of a fire hydrant.  Procedure: Members will complete an investigation report and parking citation and request the vehicle be towed to a private tow lot. A notice of impound is not required.

4.3.5.  ALARM DISTURBANCE: The vehicle is equipped with a vehicle alarm that is not designed to, or does not in fact, cease emitting an intermittent or constant sound after an aggregate time of 3 minutes within a 15 minute period on any public right-of-way; or in a public park and the alarm system disturbs or is likely to disturb, injure or endanger the peace, quiet, comfort, health or safety of the public or any person.  Procedure: Members will issue a notice of impound and request the vehicle be towed to a private tow lot. An investigation report or parking citation is not required.

4.4.  Evidence of a Crime

4.4.1.  Members may seize a vehicle when the vehicle is on a premises open to the public, or an area that the officer has lawfully entered and it is immediately apparent to the member that the vehicle itself may be evidence as defined in ORS.133.535.

4.4.2.  Members may seize a vehicle when the member has probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence as defined in ORS. 133.535, and exigent circumstances exist which make it reasonably necessary to seize the vehicle to preserve the evidence or protect it from being moved, tampered with or destroyed.  Procedure: If no exigent circumstances exist, the member should request to have one or more members standby with the vehicle until a warrant to seize the vehicle can be obtained. If exigent circumstances arise while the warrant is being obtained, including but not limited to persons attempting to access the vehicle, members may deny access or seize the vehicle as evidence. Members seizing the vehicle will request the vehicle be towed to Rivergate Storage and place a formal hold on the vehicle. The members will immediately notify the appropriate detective or sergeant of the hold.

4.5.  Stolen Vehicles (in accordance with DIR 630.61)

4.5.1.  A member may impound a vehicle when the member reasonably believes the vehicle is stolen.  Procedure: Members will call Auto Records to place a temporary hold on the vehicle for precinct detectives and record the DPPST number of the records clerk notified. Members will also notify his/her precinct detective sergeant of the hold and request the vehicle is towed to a private tow lot.

4.5.2.  A member may impound a vehicle when the VIN has been verified to indicate the vehicle is in stolen status.  Procedure: If the owner is available, members may wait a reasonable period of time for the owner to arrive on scene. If the owner is on scene and provides the member with contact information, proof of ownership and signature, the member should release the vehicle to the owner. Otherwise, the member will request the vehicle be towed to a private tow lot. Members will immediately notify Auto Records that the vehicle is no longer in stolen status, and transmit notification via the MDC that the vehicle is no longer in stolen status and is possession of the owner, so that other members are aware of the recovery.

4.6.  Abandoned Vehicles

4.6.1.  Members are not authorized to impound a vehicle solely because the vehicle is abandoned. Members may report an abandoned vehicle in one of the following two ways:  Routine Towing: For abandoned vehicles that do not constitute a public health or safety hazard a member will notify the Parking Enforcement Division by either telephoning the 24-hour Abandoned Vehicle Hotline or faxing a completed Abandoned Auto Intake form to the Abandoned Auto Coordinator.  24-Hour Towing: For abandoned vehicles that are a public health or safety hazard a member will:  Complete the Abandoned Auto Intake form.  Write "24-Hour Tow" at the bottom and "Not Warned" on the date line.  List the specific hazardous conditions the vehicle is being towed for in the comments section.  Fax the completed form to the Parking Patrol Division within 24 hours.  Do not place a warning tag or issue a citation on the vehicle.  Vehicles can be removed within 2-3 days by the Parking Division if the inspector determines that the vehicle is hazardous.


5.1.  Members will complete the vehicle and person sections of the Investigative, Custody, Traffic Violation Tow Report or other applicable report whenever a vehicle is impounded or seized. All reports will contain all relevant information regarding the reason the vehicle was impounded or seized under this policy, including the name, address, and date of birth of the driver and other parties claiming an interest in the vehicle.

5.2.  Members should request tow service via the MDC unless exigency requires the request be made via the radio. If the member does not have an MDC, or for private request or police vehicle tows, the member may use the service net to request tow service by providing the following information:

5.2.1.  Specific charges and all reasons for the tow.

5.2.2.  License or VIN number, make, and location of the vehicle.

5.2.3.  Hold information (type of hold, detail, etc. when applicable).

5.3.  Members will wait at the scene for the tow operator to arrive except for parking violations and private tows. For all other tows the following applies:

5.3.1.  Tow operators are not required to complete the tow if a member is not present.

5.3.2.  Tow companies must appear at the scene within 30 minutes of the order.

5.3.3.  To file a complaint for late arrival or other reason, members should complete a Special Report documenting the facts.

5.3.4.  Members will write "TOW" on the face of the parking tag, if applicable.

5.3.5.  Members required to wait for a towing operator will ensure the operator that arrives is from the company dispatched. Exceptions to this rule are when immediate action is required to protect life or property.

5.4.  When circumstances allow for a vehicle to be left at the scene, members will make reasonable efforts to secure the vehicle and ensure those efforts are documented in an appropriate police report. If the vehicle cannot be reasonably secured then it should be towed for safekeeping in accordance with section 4.3.3 of this directive.


6.1.  Forensic Evidence Division (FED) may be notified to have a vehicle examined for fingerprints when:

6.1.1.  A stolen and recovered vehicle is used in another crime.

6.1.2.  There is a known suspect in a stolen vehicle, and the fingerprints are needed to place the suspect in the car.

6.1.3.  A larceny from a vehicle case has a known suspect possessing property from a vehicle and the prints are needed to lace the suspect in the vehicle.

6.1.4.  The vehicle is involved in a crime such as rape, robbery, burglary and the fingerprints are needed to help identify the suspect.

6.1.5.  Vehicles should not be examined for fingerprints when:  The vehicle is recovered stolen and no other crimes are involved.  The vehicle is the subject of a larceny from a vehicle and there is no suspect.

6.1.6.  Any exceptions to this section (6.1) must be approved by a supervisor. Members seizing a vehicle for examination by the FED will place a formal evidence hold on the vehicle and notify FED and the appropriate detective or sergeant as soon as possible. The member will also request the vehicle be towed to Rivergate Storage and advise the tow operator to avoid unnecessary touching of the surfaces and to place the vehicle out of the weather.


7.1.  Bureau Vehicles

7.1.1.  If a Bureau vehicle is towed, the member will order an agency towing service via the service net.  Procedure: Members will state the shop number and reason for the request.  Members will fill out an Investigation Report when his/her police vehicle is towed or receives services for which the Bureau is billed (flat repairs, jump start, etc.) The narrative should include a brief explanation as to the reason for the tow or service.  Members will also obtain a copy of the tow company's receipt and submit it the precinct administrator.

7.2.  Courtesy Tow

7.2.1.  Holders of City permits which reserve specific areas for activities such as film production, special events, parades or similar events are allowed to tow vehicles parked in the reserve area according to the following guidelines:  Courtesy towing of a vehicle from a public right of way must be ordered by a member, an authorized City official or the Parking Patrol Division.  The supervisor in charge may direct the vehicle be moved to another legal parking space on the public right-of-way, to any storage facility designated by the City, or to private property with the permission of the property owner.  The Tow Contractor shall notify Auto Records of the exact location of each towed vehicle upon completion of each tow. This is for the owner's information to prevent a vehicle from being reported/recorded as stolen.

7.3.  Private Request Tow

7.3.1.  Members may order private request towing on behalf of the owner or other person In charge of a vehicle.

7.3.2   Members will make the request through the service net (not the MDC).

7.3.3.  Members do not need to complete an investigation report or parking citation.

7.3.4.  If the vehicle owner is present but unable to request towing due to injuries or other circumstances, the member will request private towing when it is reasonable to believe that the person in charge of the vehicle would request towing if they were able.

7.3.5.  If possible, the member ordering the tow should notify the responsible party of the vehicle disposition (i.e. the location of the tow lot).


8.1.  Asset Forfeiture

8.1.1.  Vehicles that have been impounded for civil forfeiture will be towed to Rivergate Storage with a hold for the Drugs and Vice Division supervisor.

8.1.2.  Vehicles will not be towed for civil forfeiture without prior approval from the on call Drugs and Vice Division supervisor.

8.1.3.  A civil forfeiture notice will be issued to all parties associated with the vehicle.

8.2.  Temporary Hold

8.2.1.  Temporary holds should only be used for the purposes of VIN Inspection and when a member is seizing a suspected stolen vehicle that is not yet in stolen status. The following guidelines apply:  Temporary holds will expire 72 hours following placement, excluding weekends (from 1600 Friday to 0800-Monday) and holidays.  It is the responsibility of the member ordering the tow to notify the proper investigative unit and Auto Records of the temporary hold.  The initiating member can lift a temporary hold within the current shift if the hold is no longer necessary. The investigative unit for whom the hold was placed can lift a temporary hold at any time.  If a formal hold has not been placed on a vehicle before the temporary hold expires, Auto Records will notify the owner of the expiration and that the vehicle may be released. A second temporary hold cannot be placed once the original hold expires.

8.3.  Formal Hold

8.3.1.  Members can, if warranted, place a formal hold on an impounded vehicle. Members trained to conduct VIN inspections are authorized to place and/or remove formal, temporary, or administrative hold on towed vehicles they are inspecting.

8.3.2.  A formal hold may be placed immediately upon a vehicle being towed, prior to the expiration of a temporary hold, or at any time, as long as the vehicle is still in the possession of the tow company.

8.3.3.  Members placing a formal hold on a vehicle will notify the appropriate detective or sergeant by the end of the member's shift. If the hold is traffic related, the member will notify and forward all related reports to the Traffic Investigative Unit sergeant by the end of the member's shift.

8.3.4.  Auto Records will facilitate the transfer of a vehicle to Rivergate Storage if a temporary hold is being changed to a formal hold.

8.3.5.  After a formal hold is placed on a vehicle, the hold must be verified by sending a completed Formal Hold form to Auto Records.

8.3.6.  The investigative unit placing a formal hold on a vehicle is responsible for removing the hold. The removal can be made by telephoning Auto Records and submitting a completed Formal Hold form.



9.1.  Police tows must be released by the Records Division. A tow company cannot release the vehicles without a written release form the Records Division.


10.1.  Established: 1976

10.2.  Revision #24: Effective 03/15/13

10.3.  Next Review Date: 03/1515