If you get pulled over for operating under the influence (OUI) in the state of Maine, you could face criminal charges and severe penalties if you get convicted on them. However, the penalties of an OUI conviction can go beyond just a fine, license suspension, and potential jail time. In some cases, your car can be seized by law enforcement through civil asset forfeiture and sold by the state of Maine.
In several of our recent blog posts, we covered the practice of civil asset forfeiture. The controversial method of law enforcement allows police to seize cash and other things that were used in furtherance of an alleged crime and later sell it at auction, even if no one ever gets convicted for the crime. While Congress is considering a bill that would rein in the practice, it’s still an unfortunate part of our criminal justice system.
In Maine, police have the legal authority to seize your vehicle after arresting you for OUI. In fact, under Maine law, police are required to seize your car if you’re driving while under the influence and currently have your license suspended for a prior OUI offense.
However, even though they technically can seize your car in these circumstances, police rarely do so. This is often because the process of seizing and then selling a vehicle through civil asset forfeiture becomes complicated or even worthless, depending on who owns the car.
For example, cars that are owned by multiple people raise significant legal issues. If the title of the car that you were driving when you got arrested for OUI is in both your name and your spouse’s name, police would have a hard time selling it because of your spouse’s ownership stake.
Even if your name is the only one on the car’s title, police can still pass on their legal opportunity to seize and sell it through forfeiture if you have little equity in the car. If you bought the car on credit instead of paying all of the money right up front and still have most of the loan to pay back, it might make it worthless for police to go through the forfeiture process.
In all, forfeiture is rarely done after an OUI conviction in Maine. According to one report, Maine district attorneys tried forfeiting a vehicle only about once or twice in over three hundred potential cases.
Even though it is rarely pursued, the possibility of police forfeiting your vehicle after an OUI conviction is a grave threat to your ability to recover from a costly conviction. Without your vehicle, even after dealing with the license suspension and other penalties you can still find yourself in an uphill struggle to regain your life.
If you’ve been arrested, charged, and convicted for drunk driving, OUI-defense attorney William T. Bly can help you keep your car from the forfeiture process. Contact his law office online or call him at (207) 571-8146.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys
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