North Carolina law allows police to seize vehicles in a number of circumstances, including if you’ve been convicted of a prior DWI or are in a civil revocation period for a prior DWI arrest and are arrested for a subsequent DWI. Therefore, it’s possible for your vehicle to be seized even if you’ve never actually been convicted of a DWI, provided you were in a civil revocation period while you got a subsequent DWI charge.
How can you get your vehicle back if it has been seized?
If you’re the innocent owner of the vehicle, you may be able to get the vehicle back, provided you show proof to a court that you are at least a partial owner of the vehicle, and that at the time of the second DWI charge, you were either unaware that the person’s license was revoked for a prior DWI charge or conviction, or you had not given permission to the person to drive.
If you had not given permission to the person to drive, you may be required to file a police report to demonstrate to the court that the vehicle had been unlawfully taken from you without your permission.
If you are the person convicted of a DWI and you are arrested for a subsequent DWI, you must prove to the court that your license was not revoked at the time of your second arrest in order for the court to relinquish control of the vehicle to you.
Where is your vehicle?
Typically, your car will have been towed at the request of the arresting officer to a local lot. But soon after the arrest, the car will be towed to Erwin, NC by Martin & Edwards, a Linden, NC based company that contracts with the State of North Carolina to conduct auctions and house seized cars. Martin Edwards & Associates, based in Linden, serves the eastern part of the state. You may contact Martin Edwards at (877) 897-5444.
If you are granted permission to have your car released to you, you will need to be prepared to pay towing and/or storage costs. In addition, your insurance company may be required to pay the State of North Carolina for any damage to your car under the Civil Seizure law.
Finally, you may be able to retrieve items from your car, but you will need to show the company – either the local towing company or Martin & Edwards – that you own those items.
A more detailed guide is available on DWI vehicle seizures from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (pdf).