Vehicle Seizure As a Result of A NC DWI

Believe it or not, there are certain circumstances in which a North Carolina charge for DWI can result in the seizure of your vehicle. Let me clarify something – I’m not talking about a DWI conviction, I’m just talking about the charge. So essentially, the government has created laws that allow for it to take your property and potentially not return it without you ever being convicted of a crime. So much for innocent until proven guilty.

Your vehicle can be seized if:

  1. At the time you were arrested for the DWI, you were driving on a license that was already revoked because of a prior DWI;
  2. You have no valid license AND you don’t have liability insurance at the time you were charged.

There are certain ways to get a vehicle back after a seizure. The primary method is if the car doesn’t actually belong to you, and the owner didn’t know the vehicle was being used in the commission of a crime, that owner can file an innocent owner affidavit that would result in a hearing to get the vehicle back. This is frequently done in the case where a parent owns the vehicle, a friend had loaned the vehicle, and even in cases where the vehicle has a loan on it and the bank claims to be the innocent owner. Getting the car back is important because otherwise, the state can sell it and potentially keep the proceeds.

Normally, a DWI case takes many months to resolve. In Wake County, on average these cases are taking 9-12 months to go to trial. If we wait 9-12 months to try a DWI with an associated vehicle seizure, the car will have been sold by that point in time. Generally, there is no speedy trial statute in North Carolina, but the exception is a DWI cases that involves a vehicle seizure. These cases have trial priority, meaning that by statute (N.C.G.S. 20-28.2), they are to be scheduled on the arresting officer’s next court date or within 30 days of the offense, whichever comes first. Once the case is scheduled, the case cannot be not be continued unless all of the following conditions are met:

  1. A written motion for continuance is filed with notice given to the opposing party prior to the motion being heard.
  2. The judge makes a finding of a “compelling reason” for the continuance.
  3. The motion and finding are attached to the court case record.

In short, this means that unless all of the terms for a continuance are met, the case must be tried within 30 days. This doesn’t necessarily mean that resolving the case in 30 days is favorable, as often, taking the time to gather the necessary research to fight the case gets you a better outcome, so before making any decisions about pushing a speedy trial, make sure to consult with an experienced Raleigh DWI lawyer.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.