It can be difficult to get your life back on track after an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or another substance. People who are arrested must deal with a variety of complications, including the possibility of jail time, fines, community service hours, and a suspended license. On top of these issues, some arrested individuals face even bigger problems after the police seize their vehicle.
Asset forfeiture is a controversial topic. The government has the legal ability to seize and keep property like vehicles, weapons, money, and other assets if that property was used while committing a crime or was obtained through criminal activity. It doesn't matter if the person who owns the property is innocent or even uninvolved in a particular crime - the government pursues asset forfeitures against the property itself, not its owner.
In California, law enforcement officials and departments can keep up to 80% of assets seized under state and federal law. This gives police a powerful incentive to seize cash, vehicles, and other valuable property that can be used to finance their departments. If an asset seems like it may be eligible for forfeiture, police can seize and hold that property while the state pursues its criminal case.
In order to keep a person's property in California, most asset forfeitures require a conviction. This does not mean that the person who owns the property must be convicted, but only that there is a conviction related to the property. For example, suppose a man is driving his girlfriend's car to deliver a large amount of illegal drugs. If that man is caught by police, the vehicle could be forfeited even though the girlfriend who owned the car was not involved in the illegal act. As long as there is a conviction related to the property, the police may permanently keep the vehicle.
If the state and/or federal governments are planning to keep a seized asset, the prosecutor must provide the property owner(s) with notice of its planned forfeiture. The person who owns the property will have 30 days to file a claim of ownership before the prosecutor can declare the asset forfeited. If someone objects to the forfeiture within 30 days, then the prosecutor will need to begin a civil forfeiture lawsuit against the property which will usually end with a jury trial.
In the context of DUI cases, civil asset forfeiture is uncommon but it does occur. A person is more likely to lose his or her vehicle if the DUI involves illegal drugs or if there were drugs in the car during the arrest. Additionally, a person who seriously injures or kills another while driving under the influence is more likely to have his or her vehicle seized for forfeiture. Finally, a driver's vehicle can be seized if the driver is declared a nuisance. This usually occurs when a person drives on a suspended or revoked license or has a history of multiple DUI arrests.
If your property was seized after an arrest, it is important to act quickly. There are tight deadlines for filing a claim of ownership that must be met to avoid forfeiture. Additionally, it is important to ensure that you have the best criminal defense possible to avoid forfeiture. If you are convicted, you may lose your property regardless of whether or not you filed a claim.
At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, our Orange County DUI defense attorneys represent people accused of driving under the influence every day, and will work to help you clear your name. For more information about your rights and options after a DUI, visit
To set up a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys, call 866.902.6880 today.