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Will You Lose Your Car for a DUI Forfeiture?

Sep 2nd, 2016 DUI Penalties DUI Stops

To help make up for lost revenue, more Michigan counties are seeing forfeiture of the cars driven by people arrested for DUI.  Will yours be next?

If the Oakland County Prosecutor has her way, then the answer may well be “yes.” Jessica Cooper has instructed her prosecutors to seek forfeiture for repeat drunk driving offenses.

Here is what the Royal Oak Daily Tribune had to say about it:

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper has launched a new vehicle forfeiture program for cases of repeat drunken driving.

Under the program, a person accused of a second offense of drunken driving could have to pay $900 to get their seized vehicle back and avoid forfeiture. For people who have offended three times, the cost is $1,800.

Prosecutors say the program is an effective tool in the fight against drunken driving. Similar programs are in use in Wayne and Macomb counties.

Some people have lingering questions and concerns, including about whether the initiative is overly punitive and will really work to curb drunken driving.

I guess you could say I’m “some people” because I think trying to take people’s cars for drunk driving is egregious.  It’s legalized theft really.  I intend to fight these attempts for all of my clients.

The trouble is, forfeiture is increasing as money grubbing law enforcement officials use this legalized theft as a way to make up for declining properly values.  Here is what the Detroit news recently reported on the matter:

Local law enforcement agencies are raising millions of dollars by seizing private property suspected in crimes, but often without charges being filed — and sometimes even when authorities admit no offense was committed.

The money raised by confiscating goods in Metro Detroit soared more than 50 percent to at least $20.62 million from 2003 to 2007, according to a Detroit News analysis of records from 58 law enforcement agencies. In some communities, amounts raised went from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands — and, in one case, into the millions.

“It’s like legalized stealing,” said Jacque Sutton, a 21-year-old college student from Mount Clemens whose 1989 Mustang was seized by Detroit police raiding a party. Charges against him and more than 100 others were dropped, but he still paid more than $1,000 to get the car back.

Here is a bit of history on the matter, also from the Detroit News article:

The friction over seizures is a result of two competing legacies in U.S. law. While the Fourth Amendment, adopted in 1791, protects the right of citizens to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the Supreme Court ruled in 1827 that a Spanish-owned ship could be seized after it fired on a U.S. vessel. Whether or not the crew was convicted, the brig was the principal offender, it ruled.

And 169 years later, the nation’s high court reaffirmed the notion when it ruled that a Royal Oak woman couldn’t challenge the seizure of the family sedan after her husband was caught having sex with a prostitute inside, even though she didn’t know the car was being used for that purpose.

Here is an instructive video on the matter of civil forfeiture:

If you believe that the police may try to forfeit your car for drunk driving, then call me today!  Time is of the essence, and if you don’t act quickly then one of your most valuable assets could be lost forever.