• DWI Vehicle Forfeiture



    The Ramsay Law Firm works hard to change harsh vehicle forfeiture laws, but also works hard for those whose vehicles have been forfeited and are wondering how they can get them back.

    Vehicle forfeiture occurs when a car is used in a criminal act. For instance, DWI is considered a criminal act and the vehicle used in the commission of the crime can be forfeited. If the DWI is a felony, then it is very likely that the vehicle will be forfeited to possibly never be seen again by the owner. However, it is possible to have the vehicle recovered with the help of a St. Paul DWI lawyer and when the right circumstances are in place.


    The sheriff’s department has the authority to seize the vehicle to then keep and sell if you do not recover it. The vehicle may be seized or forfeited if any of the following circumstances exist:

    The alleged offense is the third within ten years and the driver has once again been charged with DWI or refused field sobriety tests

    The alleged offense is the second offense within ten years and the driver has been charged with DWI while a minor under the age of 16 was in the vehicle or the BAC of the driver was .20 or more

    The alleged offense is the fourth offense within ten years and the driver is now charged with a felony

    The driver refuses to take a test or is charged with DWI while their dreiver’s license is already under cancellation for being a risk to public safety

    The driver is charged with test refusal or DWI while their license is subject to a restriction that states they are to not consume any amount of alcohol, which is a B-Card restriction


    The police keeps possession of the vehicle while both the forfeiture and criminal cases are pending. Even after the vehicle is seized, the arresting agency issues a Notice of Seizure to the vehicle owner, as well as an Intent to Forfeit. These notices must be issued within 30 days of vehicle forfeiture.

    After 30 days, the agency can sell the vehicle and obtain the cash for it. This means that the owner will never be able to recover the vehicle.


    There is a defense that can be used in a vehicle forfeiture case and it is that the vehicle is only subject to forfeiture if the owner knew or had reason to know that the vehicle was being used in an unlawful way. This defense cannot be used if the owner is the driver or a passenger. It can be used if the owner is someone who was not present when the DWI happened.

    In order to have the vehicle returned, your St. Paul criminal attorney can prepare the necessary paperwork to demand a hearing that determines the legality of the forfeiture. This is called a Judicial Determination of the Forfeiture and it must be filed within 30 days of vehicle forfeiture or else the vehicle will be lost no matter the outcome in the criminal case. Your attorney can advise you on whether or not a hearing request will be worth the time and the effort because not everyone will receive the result they wish to receive at the hearing and, sometimes, that is because the forfeiture was done correctly. There is no regard to what occurs in the criminal case because the forfeiture is seen as separate.


    If your vehicle was forfeited due to a DWI arrest and you feel it was taken from you illegally, you need to consult with your attorney to determine what your options are. If there is belief that your vehicle can be returned to you, your attorney will work hard for you in both your forfeiture and criminal cases to ensure the best outcome for you. Call the Ramsay Law Firm at 651-604-0000 or fill out the contact form to schedule a free consultation and learn about your options and your rights.