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Can Nassau County Confiscate My Car If I Am Pulled Over for a DWI?

Driving While IntoxicatedPursuant to the Nassau County Administrative Code §8-7.0(g), the County of Nassau is empowered to commence a civil action to obtain civil forfeiture of property which is employed as the instrumentality of a misdemeanor crime or petty offense committed within the County.

To the extent that motor vehicles are employed to commit Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offenses within the County, the Code empowers the County to pursue and obtain civil forfeiture of such vehicles against any persons having an interest in such vehicles.

Furthermore, in the event that any person tries to circumvent the legal process of the County’s right to maintain such an action by transferring title or possession of the subject vehicle, without first notifying the County, then the County of Nassau is entitled to obtain a monetary judgment against any and all such person(s) in an amount equal to the fair market value of the vehicle at the time of arrest, plus an additional penalty in the amount of $1,500.00.

Upon an arrest within the County of Nassau on suspicion of DWI, the County has the option to seek forfeiture of the subject vehicle as the instrumentality of the crime. This civil proceeding is separate and apart from the underlying criminal matter. The disposition of the criminal case weighs heavily on the civil forfeiture matter and it is important that you seek advice from an experienced NY DWI criminal and civil attorney.

You should also be aware that notwithstanding if the vehicle is being financed or leased, the financing entity will also be named in the civil forfeiture case as they will have a secured interest in the vehicle. This factor must also be considered when the ultimate disposition of the case is to be determined. There may be provisions in the leasing agreement, for example, that call for the immediate cancellation of lease and acceleration of lease payments if the subject vehicle is used as the instrumentality of a crime (i.e. DUI, DWI).

Furthermore, while the “innocent owner” defense may be utilized if the operator is not the owner of the vehicle, if it is a spousal relationship where the husband drove the car owned by the wife, the civil case will most likely proceed forward as the wife knew or should have known that the husband could drive the vehicle.

If you required the services of an experienced attorney with your DWI car forfeiture matter, please contact the Law Offices of Michael W. Alpert at (516) 280-7288 or