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Vehicle Seizure: Can The Police Seize My Car For A DWI?


Driving While Impaired (DWI) is a very serious crime in North Carolina. The state legislature has enacted laws that carry severe penalties for anyone convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. One of the penalties that many people are unaware of relates to vehicle seizure in North Carolina DWI cases. A person charged with DWI may anticipate being punished with fines, a suspended license, and possible jail time but very few people realize they could also be facing the loss of their car.

If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina, you need to contact The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, LLP immediately. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.

North Carolina Laws Regarding Vehicle Seizure

Under North Carolina criminal statutes, law enforcement agencies have the authority to seize vehicles for a variety of reasons including charges of driving while impaired. North Carolina General Statute § 20-28.3 includes a DWI vehicle forfeiture provision that allows the police to seize and impound a car that is driven by a person who was charged with Driving While Impaired and who’s license is suspended for another alcohol-related offense.

Once the car has been seized it will be towed to a facility and stored there pending the final outcome of the case.  The state will then begin to assess storage fees against the vehicle that can become quite significant if the case is not handled quickly.  If the towing and storage fees add up to more than 85% of the value of the car, it will be sold to pay those fees even if the case has never gone to trial.  And even if the defendant is never convicted of the DWI charge, the car cannot be released to them until they have paid the towing and storage fees that have accumulated to that point.  If the vehicle’s value is less than $1,500, it may be sold without a court order after 90 days.  In order to avoid a vehicle seizure from becoming a sale, it is crucial that you contact The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, LLP immediately if you are dealing with a DWI vehicle seizure.

Innocent Owners Could Face DWI Vehicle Seizure

Law enforcement officers must seize a vehicle even if the vehicle is owned by another party other than the driver when the driver meets the criteria for a DWI vehicle seizure. The owner can file an innocent owner petition to have the vehicle returned to the owner; however, the owner must prove at least one of the following conditions:

  • The owner had no reason to know and did not know that the driver was operating the vehicle with a revoked license, with no license, and/or with no insurance;
  • The owner knew the driver did not have a license, did not have insurance, or had a revoked license but he did NOT give permission for the driver to operate the vehicle;
  • The owner reported the vehicle as stolen;
  • The vehicle was a business vehicle that the driver did not have authorization to use or the driver was authorized to use the vehicle but the owner had no knowledge that the driver did not have insurance, did not have a license, or that his license had been revoked; or,
  • The business leases vehicles and the owner of the leased vehicle did not know that the driver’s license had been revoked.

If you are an innocent owner, you must act very quickly to avoid your vehicle from being sold due to a DWI vehicle seizure.

Contact an Experienced Jacksonville DWI Attorney

“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”

The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, LLP is a full-service Jacksonville Criminal and Civil law firm that is committed to providing results-driven legal representation to businesses and individuals seeking an alternative to large-firm representation. We focus on getting you the results you want while offering you a cost-effective solution to your legal needs. We understand that we work for our clients; therefore; our attorneys communicate regularly with each client to ensure that the client knows what is going on with the case.

When you have legal problems, you need an experienced legal professional in your corner. No matter the case, you should have an attorney working for you who knows the law and who has the experience to get results. We represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.

Image credit: Peter Andersen