Local District Attorney Wants to Seize Vehicles in New York DWI Cases

Albany County District Attorney David Soares wants to develop a plan to seize vehicles of those suspected of driving while intoxicated in New York.

State and federal law permit the seizure of assets, including cash and cars, for a felony crime. Such a policy for a misdemeanor would require local legislation, and such efforts have been turned down by lawmakers in Albany County and neighboring Rensselaer County in the past. New York City initiated vehicle seizures for drunk driving and other misdemeanors in 1999, to the protest of DWI defense attorneys and rights advocates.

Typically a vehicle involved in a suspected case of drinking and driving in New York is towed from the scene and released. If a vehicle were to be seized at the time of arrest for New York DWI, a legal process with hearings would have to be put in place. One complication in the plan is that many drivers either are leasing or have financed their vehicles, and do not own them outright. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys say the process of legally seizing a vehicle would be cumbersome.

Some District Attorneys prefer to initiate seizure of a vehicle after a conviction for drunk driving. The more accepted approach is to require ignition interlock devices in vehicles owned by repeat DWI offenders or those arrested with a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal.

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