Hailey’s Law

This Legal Guide discusses the history and implementation of Hailey’s Law, which went into effect in July of 2011 as another statute designed to prevent people from driving while under the influence (DUI). This guide discusses how Hailey’s Law works, its history and the exemptions to the law.


Senate Bill 5000, also known as Hailey’s Law, was created to ensure that a drunk driver does not return to his or her car and drive following his arrest and release. It also removes whatever discretion a deputy or police officer once had in determining what to do with a vehicle and instead requires that it be towed from the scene of a DUI arrest. After the vehicle is impounded, the law places a mandatory 12-hour impound on the vehicle. Hailey’s Law effectively means that a vehicle will be towed from the scene of a DUI arrest and then held under impound for a minimum of 12 hours before it can be released by the company that tows it. Furthermore, most towing companies will generally demand payment for a tow and for storage before releasing an impounded vehicle.


Hailey’s Law was named after Hailey French of Whatcom County. French was an innocent motorist who was severely injured in a head-on collision with a drunk driver on Mount Baker Highway in January 2007. The driver, Janine Parker, had been arrested for DUI several hours before the crash but was not booked into jail, nor was her vehicle impounded. Parker was driven home by a state trooper who warned her not to drive until she had sobered up. She ignored the warning, went back to her car and then caused the crash. French was permanently injured. She was awarded $5.5 million by a jury after she sued Whatcom County and the State Patrol. For more information on the history of Hailey’s Law, please read “Hailey’s Story” linked below.


Hailey’s Law contains exemptions. If an automobile has two registered owners, such as a husband and wife, the one not arrested can reclaim it before the 12-hour mandatory impound has elapsed. Similarly, a registered owner can reclaim their car if someone else driving it is arrested for DUI.


For more information on the legal landscaping surrounding vehicle impoundment and inventory searches, please read my Legal Guide titled, “VEHICLE IMPOUNDS: THE REASONS, THE RULES AND (HOPEFULLY) THE RELEASE.”

Additional resources provided by attorney Alexander Ransom: