How to Challenge a Vehicle Forfeiture

January 27, 2012

Vehicle forfeiture happens when a person's ownership of the car is seized by the government. This usually happens when a person commits a crime. When the car is seized, the ownership of the car diverts to the government. The government has the right to sell or auction the car to other buyers. Once the government owns the car, any profits resulting from it will go back to the family members of any victims, or pay for any court ordered restitution that is not tied to the crime.

Vehicle forfeiture happens when a person commits a crime that involves using the car to aid them in the commission of the crime. The biggest offenses include driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). If the person uses the car for other crimes like transporting a dead body or smuggling contraband items, the person's vehicle is also liable for forfeiture. 

When a person commits a crime, they will be given a 30-day notice to challenge the forfeiture. The person has the right to file a vehicle forfeiture defense. If the forfeiture is challenged, the court will set a date for the hearing. If the person does not challenge the forfeiture, it is often assumed that owner gives up the ownership of the car to the government. A challenge is the only legal way for a person to get back the car. Here is how to do it.

Step 1: Hire a Lawyer

The first thing to do is to hire a lawyer, but not just any lawyer. Make sure to hire a vehicle forfeiture lawyer. The lawyer will know everything about the law itself, and might know some loopholes to get around it. Check the local newspaper ads or the Internet to search for reputable law firms.

Step 2: Prepare Evidence

The law states that if a person can sufficiently demonstrate that the car was used by a third party or if the car was not involved in the act of the crime, the person will have the ownership of the car returned back to them. For example, if the car was stolen or used without the owner's permission, the court will typically award the car ownership back to the person. Even if the car was used by a spouse, the court will typically award it back as long as you are able to prove your ownership of it. Look for the owner certificate of the car to prove that it belongs to you, and have alibis or other solid evidence that proves that you were not involved in the crime in any way.

Step 3: Go to the Court Hearing

Now it is time to battle it out in the courts to get back the ownership. Discuss strategies with the lawyer before the hearing. Remember to dress appropriately for the hearing. Whatever you do, don't lie to the court. Perjury is considered an offense and not only will you be charged, lying will damage the credibility of your case.

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