7-700 Vehicle Impounding and Towing


7‑701          IMPOUNDING VEHICLES (06/01/12) (09/14/18)

i.             PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to provide employees with information and guidance on towing vehicles, and inventory, storage and releasing of impounded vehicles.

ii.          DEFINITIONS

Responsible Occupant: A person in the vehicle, who after reasonable inquiry, appears to be in lawful possession of the vehicle.


A.    Officers shall impound vehicles in the following circumstances:

1.      As authorized by a “Pick-up and Hold” Order;

2.      As directed by an MPD investigator or supervisor;

3.      The officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle is stolen and the owner is not present.

B.     Unless otherwise prohibited by law, officers may impound vehicles parked on public property in the following circumstances:

1.      The officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle constitutes evidence of a crime and impoundment is reasonably necessary to preserve the evidence;

2.      There is probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime and impoundment is reasonably necessary to obtain or preserve the evidence;

3.      The vehicle impedes traffic, threatens public safety, or threatens public convenience and the owner or responsible occupant cannot immediately remove the vehicle on his/her own;

4.      The vehicle is subject to forfeiture.

5.      The vehicle is illegally parked and impoundment is specifically authorized by Minnesota state statute or Minneapolis ordinance, including, but not limited to, MN Statute sections 168B.04 and 168B.035. This includes, but is not limited to, retaining control over a vehicle that is subject to forfeiture;

6.      The owner or responsible occupant is arrested, absent, or otherwise incapacitated and impoundment appears appropriate for the safekeeping of the vehicle and its contents, to protect them from theft and damage and to protect the MPD from claims of mishandling, unless prohibited in section [C] below.

7.      The owner or responsible occupant requests that the MPD takes responsibility for the vehicle.

C.     Officers shall not impound a vehicle solely for safekeeping in the following circumstances:

1.      When the owner or responsible occupant has been cited rather than arrested, and is capable of taking responsibility for the vehicle.

2.      When the owner or responsible occupant has been arrested, specifically requests to make arrangements for the vehicle and is successful in making those arrangements.

a.       An officer should give an arrestee a reasonable opportunity to make arrangements if specifically requested.

b.      Such an opportunity should not unnecessarily delay or hinder any ongoing police investigation or official duties (e.g. testing a driver’s alcohol concentration within a statutorily required time-frame).

3.      When another person with a valid driver’s license is available at the scene and has the owner’s/responsible occupant’s permission to take custody of the vehicle, even if the owner/responsible occupant has been arrested.

4.      The vehicle is legally parked and the owner/responsible occupant requests the vehicle to be left legally parked.

D.     Officers are not required to ask an owner or responsible occupant if they wish to make their own arrangements for the removal of the vehicle in lieu of impoundment.

1.      Vehicle Accidents

a.       In vehicle accidents, if an immediate tow is necessary, officers shall note the reason in the Vehicle Impound Report and shall order the tow.  An immediate tow is necessary when a vehicle is disabled and either impedes traffic or otherwise presents a risk to the public safety and public convenience, or when the failure to immediately tow would place the vehicle or its contents at risk of theft. 

b.      If the vehicle does not have to be moved immediately, is not disabled, and the owner or responsible occupant is able to remove the vehicle within a reasonable time, officers shall not order a tow.

c.       In other cases where an immediate tow is not necessary, but the vehicle is disabled, the owner (if on scene) or responsible occupant should be given a reasonable opportunity to arrange a tow. If officers have an opportunity they should ask the owner or responsible occupant if they wish to arrange a tow, when practical. When a citizen is arranging a tow, they shall be responsible for ordering the private tow and for the resulting charges. Officers shall not order a private tow.

E.     In all cases in which a report is required and a vehicle is towed, officers shall state the reason for towing in the report. If a report is not required, officers shall state the reason for impounding the vehicle on the tow sheet.

F.      In all cases in which a report is required and a vehicle  could have been towed but is left legally parked, officers shall note the reason it was left parked, including a summary of the owner or responsible occupant’s request(s), if any, in the report.

7-702          TOWING- INVENTORY PROCEDURE (09/14/18)

A.     It is the policy of MPD that an inventory search of a vehicle must be conducted when a vehicle is impounded by MPD for any of the reasons discussed in P&P 7-701, or when an unlocked and unoccupied vehicle is otherwise towed by police order.

1.      The purpose of an inventory search is to protect property in the vehicle, to ensure that the vehicle does not contain harmful or dangerous weapons or other items that would endanger the safety of officers or the public, and to protect the department against false claims of loss or damage.

2.      The inventory search shall be for the entire vehicle, including all compartments that can be accessed without damage to the vehicle.

a.       Officers shall investigate the contents of containers within the vehicle if those containers can be opened without damage to the container.

b.      If a container cannot be opened without damage, an officer shall attempt to determine the value of the contents of a container by reasonable means, such as asking the owner.

B.     The inventory search shall be performed in accordance with P&P 9-201 III B, entitled “Searching Vehicles.”  For ease of reference, the primary obligations of an officer conducting an inventory search are included here:

1.      An “inventory search” is the search of a vehicle lawfully seized in order to ensure that the vehicle does not contain harmful or dangerous weapons, secure valuable items, and protect against false claims of loss or damage.

2.      A “Vehicle Impound Report” (AKA “tow sheet”) must be completed for every tow.

a.       All items of significant monetary value shall be recorded on the tow sheet.

b.      Officers must indicate on the tow sheet what items were removed and inventoried and what items were left in the vehicle.

3.      If the inventory of the vehicle results in an arrest or seizure of evidence or contraband, a report and supplement shall be completed by each officer conducting the inventory search.  This is in addition to completion of the tow sheet.  The officer(s) must articulate, at a minimum, the following:

a.       The legal justification(s) for the search;

b.      Results of the search;

c.       Any damages that occurred;

d.      Any other pertinent information.

4.      If the inventory of a vehicle does not result in an arrest, property damage, or seizure of evidence or contraband, the fact that a search occurred and the legal justification for it should be documented via added remarks to the call in CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) or by another method.

5.      If damage to property was caused during the course of a search and/or resulting seizure, officers shall:

a.       Notify a supervisor; and

b.      Document the damage by taking photographs.

6.      Where possible, items such as weapons, contraband, items of significant monetary value, or other items that an officer believes should be retained for safekeeping shall be property inventoried.

7‑703          TOWING PROCEDURE – GENERAL (09/14/18)

A.     Towing requests shall be made to the Auto Desk.

1.      Requests shall indicate the location of the vehicle, the license or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and the type of tow required.

2.      Heavy duty towing shall be ordered if the vehicle to be towed has three or more axles, or a gross weight in excess of 10,000 pounds, or if an officer determines that heavy-duty equipment is necessary. (03/14/97)

B.     White Tag Tow

A "White Tag Tow" means that an officer is waiting at the scene for the tow truck. A White Tag Tow is used when it is necessary to immediately remove a vehicle to safeguard the vehicle and its contents, (i.e. when the vehicle is needed for evidence or when the vehicle is creating a traffic hazard).

1.      When using a White Tag Tow, officers shall complete a Vehicle Impound Report "Tow Sheet" (MP 6925) and determine that the VIN and license plate correspond with the registration on file with the Department of Motor Vehicle Registration. A citation may also be issued depending on the reason for towing the vehicle. (10/25/89)

2.      Prior to removal by the towing service, the vehicle shall be searched according to P&P 7-702 Towing- Inventory Procedure. (03/14/97)

C.     Red Tag Tow

A "Red Tag Tow" means that an officer is not waiting for the tow truck.

1.      Officers using or requesting a "Red Tag Tow" shall complete a red tag tow report and attach it with the citation(s) issued to each towed vehicle's windshield. (10/25/89)

2.      When an officer directs a “Red Tag Tow,” no inventory search shall be performed.  See Minneapolis City Ordinance 478.1160 (“It shall be the duty of the impound tower or his agent to prepare a written report of the description of the vehicle with an inventory of any personal properties visible therein at the time of the arrival of the tower at the location of the vehicle.”)

3.      "Red Tag Tows" are separated into two (2) categories: IMMEDIATE and DELAYED. (10/25/89) (01/19/90) (10/31/90) (08/14/92)

a.       Immediate Red Tag Tows

Immediate "Red Tag Tows" include:

·         Rush Hour zones: 7‑9am and 4‑6pm;

·         Snow emergency;

·         Blocking alley, driveway, traffic lane, or right of way;

·         Parked in a bus lane or at a bus stop, during hours when parking is prohibited;

·         Blocking fire hydrant;

·         Disability zones;

·         Temporary no parking, when posted 24 hours in advance;

·         Preventing egress by a lawfully parked vehicle;

·         Posted emergency vehicle zone;

·         Parked within 30 feet of a stop sign and visually blocks sign;

·         Vehicles parked in posted taxicab stands not licensed as same;

·         School zones;

·         Winter Parking Restrictions.

b.      Delayed Red Tag Tows

i.        Delayed "Red Tag Tows" require at least a four-hour delay before the vehicle may be towed. The time the vehicle will be first eligible for towing should be listed on the front line of the red tag tow report. (10/25/89) (01/19/90) (05/23/90) (10/31/90) (08/14/92)

ii.      Delayed "Red Tag Tows" include:

·         Posted no parking zones (4 hours);

·         Truck zones;

·         Sidewalk or boulevard;

·         Crosswalks;

·         Municipal property (Abandoned vehicles on municipal property require 48 hours or 4 hours when properly posted, per MN Statute sections 168B.011 and 168B.035);

·         Overweight Truck parking;

·         Abandoned vehicles as defined in MN Statute section 168B.011 (must be parked over 72 hours).

D.     Investigative and hit and run tows involving pedestrian victims shall be impounded at the Forensic Garage. (04/12/89) (10/25/89)

7‑704          TOWING FROM PRIVATE PROPERTY (09/14/18)

A.     A vehicle legally parked on private property may be towed only under the following conditions:

·         The vehicle has been reported stolen.

·         The vehicle is wanted by an investigative unit.

·         The vehicle is involved in a crime. 

B.     Officers shall advise parties seeking tows from private property for illegally parked vehicles that they must make their own arrangements with a private towing service.


The contracted towing service will tow from anywhere in or near the City of Minneapolis. However, if it is necessary to tow a vehicle for MPD business from far enough out of the city to justify a private towing service, officers shall contact the Fleet Manager or the on‑duty Watch Commander for permission. The bill for such service will be accompanied by a memorandum and forwarded to the Auto Desk.

7‑706          STALLED VEHICLES

Officers will not push or pull any stalled vehicle with a police vehicle. If no telephone facilities are reasonably available, officers may notify an official police impounding agency. However, the operator should be made aware that neither the officers nor the Department will assume responsibility for the reliability or cost of services rendered.

7‑707          PLACING A HOLD ON AN IMPOUNDED VEHICLE (09/14/18)

A.     When a hold is placed on a vehicle for evidentiary reasons, officers shall write "Hold" on the Vehicle Impound Report (MP 6925) along with the reason for the hold.

1.      The tow truck driver should be advised on how to handle the vehicle to protect any evidence.

2.      Officers shall note in the remarks section of the Vehicle Impound Report what the charges are against the driver or occupants of the vehicle.

B.     When officers arrest a driver for DUI and impound the vehicle, officers shall indicate on the Impound Sheet "DWI Arrest, Hold for Proof of Insurance and Ownership.”

C.     The owner of the vehicle must provide proof of ownership and proof of insurance before their car can be released per MN Statute section 169A.42. (01/04/93) (10/22/15)


A.     Only vehicles impounded and held for forensic examination shall be towed directly to the Forensic Garage. Other vehicles placed on a "Hold" shall be towed directly to the City Impound Lot.

B.     A supervisor must authorize impounds for forensic examination.

C.     Procedures and timelines

1.      The respective division or unit will be responsible for promptly ordering the examination by the Forensic Garage staff or for release of the vehicle.

2.      The completion of the examination should not exceed eight days following notification to the Forensic Garage by the respective division or unit. (02/9/04)

a.       If circumstances exist that would prevent completion of processing in eight days, the City Impound Lot towing coordinator shall be notified by the investigator assigned to the case and arrange to have the "Hold" period extended.

b.      If this is not done, the vehicle will automatically be towed from the Forensic Garage to the City Impound Lot in eight days. (02/9/04)

3.      Forensic Garage personnel will notify the Auto Desk immediately upon completion of their examination.

4.      The Forensic Garage is responsible for notifying the supervisor or investigator of the respective division or unit that the examination has been completed. (02/9/04)

5.      All vehicle "holds" will automatically expire 15 business days after the date a vehicle was towed to the City Impound Lot.

a.       Investigative divisions or units may extend that period, if necessary, for further investigation or for seizure.

b.      To extend that period, the investigator handling the case must send or fax the Auto Desk a completed investigator’s Vehicle Hold form (MP-8897) and the exact amount of extended "hold" time required. The Vehicle Hold form can be found on the MPD Net under “MPD Forms.” (01/11/89) (02/9/04)

7‑709          RELEASE OF VEHICLE PROCEDURE (09/14/18)

A.     When a driver is arrested, and the vehicle is released (with the permission of the owner or responsible occupant) at the scene to a responsible party, the officer shall include the responsible party’s information in their arrest report.

B.     The holding or investigating division or unit will authorize the release of impounded vehicles. This will be done in writing by placing the name, address and the phone number of the party to whom the vehicle is to be released on the original Vehicle Impound Report (MP-6925).

7‑710          ADMINISTRATIVE IMPOUNDMENT OF LICENSE PLATES (01/28/91) (04/01/93) (04/18/08) (09/14/18)

A.     Minnesota state law requires that police officers impound the license plates in the following circumstances: (04/18/08)

1.      The individual has been arrested for the second drug or alcohol related violation of MN Statute section 169A.20 (driving while impaired) or MN Statute section 169A.52 (license revocation for test failure or refusal), within 10 years.

2.      The individual has a Commercial Driver’s License disqualification under MN Statute section 171.165 for a 2nd drug or alcohol related violation within 10 years.

3.      The individual was driving while having an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or more.

4.      For a violation of MN Statute section 169A.20, while having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle if the child is more than 36 months younger than the offender.

5.      For driving after license cancellation for repeated drug or alcohol violations (canceled-inimical to public safety) whether DUI or sober.

B.     Upon arresting a suspect for DUI, an officer shall check the suspect's driving record and determine if license plate impoundment is required.

1.      If impoundment is required, the license plates shall be removed and a Notice and Order of License Plate Impoundment form (PS2486-14) shall be completed.

a.       If the operator of the vehicle is the owner or lessor, a seven-day permit shall be issued.

b.      If the operator is not the owner or lessor, a 45-day permit shall be issued.

c.       The Notice and Order of License Plate Impoundment form shall be completed (including the expiration date of the permit, which shall be printed in large numerals).

i.        The “vehicle” copy will be taped to the inside rear window, left corner.

ii.      The “Department, Operator and Issuing Agency” copies shall be forwarded to the Records Unit, who will file the Issuing Agency copy and forward the other two copies to the State of Minnesota on a weekly basis. (04/18/08)

2.      If for any reason, the car is released before the plates can be removed for impoundment, the Notice and Order of License Plate Impoundment form shall still be completed.

a.       The “Vehicle” and “Operator” copies will be given to the operator of the vehicle who shall be advised to post the “Vehicle” copy on the inside of the rear window and surrender the vehicle plates along with the “Operator” copy to any law enforcement agency.

b.      The “Department” and “Issuing Agency” copies will be forwarded to the Records Unit.

3.      Notice and Order of License Plate Impoundment forms are available from the MPD Stores Unit.

C.     License plates that are surrendered shall be turned in to the City Impound Lot and they will be responsible for their destruction. It will be the responsibility of each precinct/unit/division to ensure that the impounded plates are delivered to the City Impound Lot weekly.


Last updated Sep 14, 2018



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