Get Your Car Back after a New York DWI Arrest
It is not uncommon for the police to seize your vehicle as part of an arrest for DUI in New York. How quickly you get your car back depends on the reason the vehicle was seized. It may have been taken for “safekeeping” while you are being arrested, or it may be taken to be used as evidence against you in your DWI case. Lastly, it may be impounded under New York City forfeiture laws, in which case you may never get your car back unless you know your rights and the proper procedure for reclaiming property subject to forfeiture. See below for more information about getting your car back after a New York DUI arrest, and call 888-DUI-LAWYER in Long Island for immediate advice and assistance.
Getting Your Car Back is a Civil Proceeding; Explained by Long Island DWI Attorneys
Retrieving your car takes place separate from any criminal proceeding you may be going through to fight a conviction for DWI. The fact that fighting to get your car back takes place in a separate, civil proceeding means you could win your criminal case and still wind up losing your car! How you get your car back depends on the reason it was taken.
1. Car was taken for safekeeping. You should get a voucher from the police at the time of your arrest when your car is first taken. If you did not get a voucher at the time, you can get one later at the precinct where your arrest was processed. Take the voucher to the NYPD Property Clerk, and notify the auto pound that has your car. You will need proof of insurance, proof of your title to the car, and a photo ID.
2. Car was taken for arrest evidence. You will need to get a letter from the District Attorney stating that the vehicle is no longer needed as arrest evidence and authorizing the NYPD to release the vehicle to you. Your attorney can help you obtain this DA release.
3. Car was taken subject to New York forfeiture laws. Under New York City Administrative Code section 14-140, the Civil Enforcement Unit has legal authority to impound and impose forfeiture on any property used as an instrumentality in the commission of a crime. This law can apply to the forfeiture of your vehicle used in a drunk driving incident. Fortunately, this authority is usually only exercised in extreme cases or for repeat offenders. Usually, your attorney can settle the forfeiture with the City through an agreement for you to submit to alcohol screening or evaluation and complete any recommended treatment program. There could be a settlement fee along with storage fees and any fees charged by a treatment program.
Taking Your Vehicle is a Seizure, and You Have Constitutional Rights
When the police take your car, this amounts to a warrantless seizure of property, and the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable seizures. This means you have a right to a prompt hearing to challenge whether the police have probable cause to take your property. If they don’t, they should return your vehicle to you pending any further proceedings. This Right to Retention Hearing should take place within ten days of the seizure of your property. In the case of forfeiture, once you demand return of your vehicle, the City has 20 or 25 days to either initiate civil forfeiture proceedings or release the vehicle to you. Keep in mind that statements made in a forfeiture proceeding can also be used in your criminal case, which may help or hinder your case.
Don’t Give Up Your Car Without a Fight. Call 888-DUI-LAWYER after a Long Island DUI Arrest
Often times the police will seize your vehicle hoping you won’t think it’s worth it to fight to get your car back. It is critical that you know your rights and have the advice of a knowledgeable DUI attorney who can advise you on your best options. In Long Island, call 888-DUI-LAWYER for immediate help.