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VEHICLE SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE IN DWI CASES

FUN FACT: Did you know that the police can seize, impound and sell your car if you are arrested for DWI/DUI and you either (1) have a driver’s license which is revoked due to a prior impaired driving revocation or (2) have no valid driver’s license and no automobile liability insurance.
The police present a magistrate with an affidavit of impoundment to initiate the seizure. Then the magistrate issues an order of seizure. The car is towed to a private impound lot where the daily storage fees begin accumulating.
The vehicle can be released to:
1) An “innocent owner.” This is a person who owns the car but was not the DWI driver and didn’t know the driver’s license status. An innocent owner can obtain a permanent release,
2) The defendant/owner can obtain a permanent release if he/she can demonstrate that his/her license was not revoked due to a previous impaired driving revocation or the license is valid and/or there is liability insurance,
3) A rental car agency can obtain a permanent release if the car was a rental,
4) A lienholder can obtain a permanent release if driver/borrower has defaulted on the loan and
5) A co-owner of the car can obtain a temporary release if that person posts a security bond in an amount equal to the fair market value of the car as long as the car is returned on the day of the forfeiture hearing.
Trials involving cars subject to forfeiture are to be tried on the officer’s next court date or 30 days whichever comes first unless the court grants a continuance for “compelling reasons.” Since trials rarely occur so quickly, if the defense wants to try to enforce this right, they must argue for an immediate trial date, object to any continuance and argue that the remedy is to release the car.
NCGS 20-28.3