Sorry for any unintended confusion. If the police were only holding your car for the purposes of an inventory search and an investigation
, they are not entitled to keep it forever. They can seize it as contraband if it was the fruit or the instrumentality of a crime, however. That's an entirely different story. The illustrations I used, a stolen car or a dui were illustrative only of what I meant by fruit and instrumentality and not meant to an exclusive list. If you were dealing or transporting drugs in your car, for example, or soliciting prostitutes you car could be similarly impounded and in the former case, the county would likely fight real hard not to give it back.
I can't tell you what the police are doing with your car. I can only tell you the various reasons that they can hang onto it. While you own it, you are expected to pay for it and a car can be subject to civil forfeiture even if it has a lien on it (though as your wife has not yet received a notice of forfeiture, that doesn't appear to be an issue at this time.
So get your lawyer to contact the DA about this, because as a defendant, the last people in the world you should be talking to right now is the police anyhow. And the DA has the authority to order the police to release the car. The longer you take to get a lawyer on it, the more impound fees will be accruing.
Edited by FranL on 11/3/2010 at 2:25 AM EST