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Vehicle seizure in North Carolina for a DWI

For most people, a vehicle is one of their most important possessions. From work to school to shopping to traveling, a vehicle provides both a necessity and a convenience.

North Carolina law enforcement, however, will not let that prevent them from seizing a repeat DWI offender's vehicle. In fact, there are two reasons why someone charged with impaired driving may have his or her vehicle seized:

-- The driver already has a revoked license for a previous impaired driving offense or

-- The vehicle is not covered by auto insurance and the driver does not have a valid license.

This is rather disturbing since just because someone is charged with a DWI or other impaired driving offense, that does not mean he or she is guilty.

Once an alleged drunk driver's vehicle has been seized, the court may forfeit the vehicle and give it to the local school board or release it back to the driver. The vehicle could also end up sold and this could be done without a court order.

If the driver and owner of the vehicle can prove that he or she was not driving on a revoked license for a previous impaired driving offense, then he or she can get the vehicle back. However, there are several requirements that must be met first.

If a person is convicted of the impaired driving offense, then the he or she will need to attend a forfeiture hearing in which he or she can request that the vehicle be released. There are some instances when the vehicle is sold before a person even goes to trial. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction can sell the vehicle without an order from the court if:

-- The vehicle is worth less than $1,500 and 90 days have passed since law enforcement seized the vehicle.

-- The costs for towing and storage are more than 85 percent of the fair market value of the vehicle.

-- The owner of the vehicle consented to selling the vehicle.

As you can see, there is more at stake than just a person's driving privileges in North Carolina for multiple impaired driving offenses. If you have had a vehicle seized due to a DWI charge, it's important to have an understanding of your legal rights.

Source: North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, "DWI Vehicle Seizure" accessed Feb. 26, 2015

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