Vehicle Confiscation in DUI Cases

Vehicle confiscation occurs most commonly when someone has repeatedly been cited for drunk driving. A repeat offender is generally someone who has committed three or more driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. In addition to the number of offenses, the time period within which they were committed can also be a factor in deciding whether or not vehicle confiscation is appropriate.

After a vehicle is confiscated, providing that the penalty is intended to be temporary and not permanent, the offender can regain possession of his or her vehicle after fines and other administrative costs are paid. These terms, including the cost for regaining possession of the vehicle, are made known to the offender at the same time that the vehicle is confiscated.

There is typically a process through which an offender can appeal the confiscation of his or her vehicle. This process is undertaken in conciliation court as a civil complaint. Under this court’s jurisdiction, the validity of the vehicle’s original seizure will be considered, and if applicable, the vehicle and any costs relating to its seizure may be returned to the offender.

Within 30 days of the seizure, the offender should be notified of his or her right to an appeal. A financial institution with a vested interest in the seized property may also submit a petition.

The confiscation of a vehicle is considered a deterrent for future drunk driving offenses. In 1995, a study completed in Oregon determined that of the offenders whose vehicles were confiscated, only half of them committed another violation. Unfortunately, the cost associated with vehicle confiscation was greater than the amount of cash earned from the sale of the confiscated vehicles, making it a difficult process for the state to financially sustain.

In Minnesota, both seizure and impoundment of a vehicle are an option after an offender has been arrested and detained. In lieu of either, the state could also impound the vehicle’s license plate. In some instances, the completion of a course which promotes sobriety or responsible drinking may be required before the vehicle or license plate is returned.

In accordance with the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century, all states were required to adopt protocol for the handling of repeat offenders in order to avoid a federal tax on their highway funds. States must decide whether to immobilize, impound, or install interlocking devices in the vehicles of offenders who have had two or more violations in a period of five years.