Vehicle Seized for DUI

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Illinois has significant consequences. First offenses have severe consequences, and each additional offense has increasingly stringent penalties. Penalties such as jail time, large fines and revocation of driving privileges are well known. An additional possible consequence that many may not be aware of is that in some cases, the state can forfeiture your vehicle for certain DUI offenses.

Vehicle Forfeiture

Vehicle forfeiture is a fancy way of saying that the state can seize your vehicle and sell it. The state then can keep the proceeds of the sale. Forfeiture laws act as a deterrent to crime, and in the case of DUI laws, vehicle forfeiture is available to the state as a deterrent to driving while intoxicated. Depending on the circumstances, even a first time offender may need to worry about vehicle forfeiture if he/she is driving without a valid license or insurance.

When can the state forfeiture a vehicle for DUI offense?

Article 36 of the Illinois statute explains when vehicles can be forfeited for DUI offenses. According to the article, any vehicle used with the knowledge and consent of the owner in various crimes can be forfeited. Among the various crimes are several DUI related offenses. Any vehicle can be seized or impounded by the state or local authorities if:

  • the driver is driving under the influence while driving privileges are suspended or revoked from a previous DUI or reckless homicide
  • the driver is driving under the influence and has a previous conviction for reckless homicide or aggravated DUI with death or great bodily harm
  • the driver is committing a third or subsequent DUI
  • the driver is driving under the influence without a valid driver’s license or permit
  • the driver is driving under the influence while uninsured

Vehicle Forfeiture Process

After a DUI arrest and vehicle seizure, the vehicle must be delivered to the Sheriff in the county which the seizure occurred. Then the Sheriff must notify everyone listed on the title via certified mail to the address on file within 15 days. The Sheriff must also notify the State’s Attorney within that time frame. Next, the State’s Attorney must file a complaint of forfeiture with the circuit court. This complaint must also be served to the vehicle owners listed on the title. The owners then have 20 days to file an answer to the complaint. After the hearing, if the court rules in favor of forfeiture, then the vehicle will put up at auction. At the hearing, the state must demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that the vehicle was used in the commission of a crime (ie. used while driving under the influence).

Financial Hardship

The statute does allow for a spouse or family member to have the title transferred into his/her name if it can be proven that forfeiture of the vehicle would cause financial hardship for the family. This provision does have limitations. If the vehicle is used during a subsequent DUI offense, the title can no longer be transferred to another person. Additionally, if another car is used during a DUI, this provision cannot be used for that car either. Basically, this is a one time provision per family.

Experienced Chicago DUI Attorney Can Help

The DUI vehicle forfeiture law follows a strict process with deadlines that must be followed. If you fail to file an answer to the complaint or neglect to show hardship, your car can be seized and sold. Dennis F. Dwyer, attorney at law, is familiar with DUI vehicle forfeiture law and can fight for your vehicle. Loss of your vehicle can infringe upon your freedom, make it difficult to get to work and cause significant financial difficulties for your family. If you have your vehicle seized after a DUI arrest, contact Dennis F. Dwyer to defend your case.

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