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New policy allows police to seize vehicles before DWI conviction

It is no shock to hear that driving while intoxicated in New York comes with serious consequences. Usually, these consequences, which can include license suspension, fines or even jail time, come following a conviction. But one county in New York has imposed a consequence on those who have merely been charged with DWI.

A new policy adopted by the Nassau County police permits officers to seize the vehicles of those arrested for driving while intoxicated, even before a conviction has been made. In the past, these vehicles would be seized and then either auctioned off or settled financially with leasing companies or banks, but only after a conviction had been entered against the accused. Under the new policy, following a drunk driving arrest, an administrative hearing will be held to decide whether the vehicle can be legally held by the county until the DWI charges are resolved. The goal of this policy is to make sure that the vehicle is available to the county for forfeiture, if necessary. In some cases, the vehicle may be held throughout the duration of court proceedings.

Supporters of the new policy claim that it will make the streets safer by preventing drunk driving. However, opponents of the new policy claim that it is not fair to seize a vehicle prior to a conviction, particularly if the accused is innocent. Some legal professionals think the policy may be overturned if there is an appellate review.

In any criminal case, it is important that the accused's constitutional rights are safeguarded by law enforcement authorities. There are specific laws by which law enforcement officials must abide regarding search, seizure and arrest. If an individual feels that his or her constitutional rights have been violated, they should explore their options, including mounting a strong defense if charged with a crime. With the right help, those accused of drunk driving can clear their names so they can move on with their lives.

Source: CBS New York, "Nassau County Seizing Vehicles After DWI Arrests," Sept. 11, 2014

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