Woman Using a Breathalyzer During a Traffic StopIf you are arrested for DWI in Mecklenburg County, you face serious punishments if you are convicted. One consequence that you may not even consider is that the police may have the right to seize the vehicle you were driving when you were arrested. However, you may be able to get your car back with the help of an experienced DWI attorney in Charlotte.

When Can Law Enforcement Seize Your Vehicle?

The police are required to take a driver’s motor vehicle in certain situations under North Carolina law. They are required to seize it if at the time of the arrest:

  • The driver had his license revoked for a prior DWI offense
  • The driver did not have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance as required by North Carolina law.

If either of these apply, law enforcement would seize the vehicle even if the driver is not its owner.

The vehicle initially would be towed to a local storage facility. Within a few days, it would be moved to the facility of a state contractor. At present, law enforcement contracts with a towing company in Charlotte to store vehicles in our county and throughout the western part of our state.

What Happens to a Vehicle After it Is Seized in a DWI Arrest?

In most cases, a court action would need to be filed, and a hearing would be held after a vehicle’s seizure. The judge would decide to either:

  • Return the vehicle to the owner
  • Transfer the vehicle to the local school board, who could then sell it

However, a motor vehicle can be sold by the contracting facility without a court order if the storage and towing costs would exceed its value. If this occurs, the contractor would deposit the net proceeds of the sale with the local court clerk’s office. The proceeds would first be used to pay off any liens on the vehicle, and any balance left over would be returned to the owner.

How Can You Get Your Auto Returned to You?

If you were the owner of the vehicle that was seized at the time of your arrest, you may be able to get it back. You would need to show that your driver’s license was not revoked for a prior DWI conviction at the time of your arrest and meet other requirements.

It may be easier to have your auto returned if you are its owner but were not driving it at the time of the DWI arrest. You can have it temporarily returned until a court hearing to decide on what happens to it by posting a bond equal to your vehicle’s value.

In order to keep your vehicle, you would need to prove that you were “innocent.” There are five ways that you could show this:

  • You did not have any reason to know that the person’s driver’s license was revoked or that he did not have a valid license and required auto insurance.
  • You knew the person’s license had been revoked or that he did not have a valid license and insurance, but you did not give him permission to drive the vehicle. You must also have filed a police report and agree to cooperate in the prosecution of the driver.
  • Your vehicle was stolen, and you reported its theft to law enforcement.
  • You rent vehicles as part of your business, and the driver was not an authorized driver or you did not know that his driver’s license was revoked when you rented the vehicle to him.
  • You lease vehicles as part of your business and did not know that the person’s driver’s license was revoked when you entered into the lease with him.

Have You Been Arrested for a DWI in Charlotte, NC?

If you are facing DWI charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charlotte office directly at 980.207.3355 to schedule your free consultation.


Howard W. Long, II
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Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer