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Forfeited Vehicles and Immobilization in Wheeling

When facing an DUI conviction, it’s crucial to comprehend West Virginia’s mandatory minimum sentence requirements. Understandably, this can include penalties such as vehicle immobilization or even criminal forfeiture.

Immobilization or forfeiture of your vehicle, however, will only occur after your initial DUI conviction. Nevertheless, if there’s a family member heavily relying on the vehicle for daily tasks, and its absence leads to hardship, there is an opportunity to request a waiver. Should the waiver be granted, specific conditions will be attached to the vehicle’s usage.

Circumstances in Which a Vehicle Will Be Immobilized or Forfeited

To shed light on the circumstances in which a vehicle can be immobilized or forfeited, consider the following required penalties for DUI convictions beyond the first:

  • 2nd DUI within 6 years:
    Vehicle immobilized for 90 days
    Class 4 suspension for 1 to 5 years
    License plates impounded for 90 days
    Limited driving privileges permitted
  • 3rd DUI within 6 years:
    Criminal forfeiture of vehicle required
    Class 3 suspension for 2 to 10 years
    Limited driving privileges allowed
  • 4th or more DUI within 6 years OR a 6th DUI in the space of 20 years:
    Limited driving privileges permitted
    Required criminal forfeiture of vehicle
    Class 2 suspension for 3 years to life
  • DUI conviction following a felony conviction:
    Mandatory forfeiture of vehicle
    Class 2 suspension for 3 years to life
    Limited driving privileges are allowed

Keep in mind that if your vehicle is ordered to be impounded, a $100 fee will be assessed. Also, note that a vehicle can only be forfeited or impounded if it’s connected to your DUI offense and registered in your name.

Immobilization Orders and the Court

When it comes to immobilizing your vehicle, the court takes charge. An order will be issued containing crucial information that you need to know:

  • The duration of immobilization
  • The date the order is issued
  • A description of your vehicle – including the year, make, and model
  • The entity responsible for immobilizing your vehicle, whether it’s the law enforcement agency that made the arrest, the agency in your area of residence, a court bailiff, or a person designated by the court
  • A statement noting that the vehicle cannot be registered until the immobilization fee is paid. In other words, you won’t be able to get new license plates until this fee is settled.
  • The location where your vehicle will be immobilized. This could be your residence, your parent’s, child’s, or spouse’s place, a police impound lot, a legally parked public street or highway, or a private property, with written permission from the owner.

Immobilization Period Beginnings

Your immobilization period commences on the day your car is towed or fitted with a boot by the police. If your vehicle was impounded before your court date, that duration is considered part of the immobilization period.

During immobilization, the person in charge will remove your license plates and deliver them to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for destruction.

Once the immobilization period is over, upon payment of the necessary fee, you will regain authorization to reclaim your vehicle and obtain new license plates. The fee for the new plates will be the same as the fee for lost, mutilated, or destroyed ones.

Driving your immobilized vehicle and getting caught in the act will result in your vehicle being seized. It will be taken off the streets, deemed criminally forfeit, and dispositioned. This means the vehicle may be assigned to the law enforcement agency of the arresting officer or sold at auction. In any case, the law prohibits the vehicle from being sold back to you or any of your family members.

If, after the immobilization period, you fail to claim your vehicle within seven days, a letter will be sent to your last known address. You will be granted twenty days to retrieve your vehicle and settle the fee. Failure to comply will result in forfeiture.

My Car Is Immobilized, Can I Sell it?

Unfortunately, the answer is no, unless I have prior approval from the court. In order to sell my car while it’s immobilized, I will need to convince the judge that I have legitimate reasons for doing so. If I manage to persuade the judge, they will give their consent to the registrar and notify me of their approval.

Furthermore, during the period between my arrest and the immobilization of my car, I cannot transfer or assign the title without the court’s prior approval. If I attempt to do so, the judge will instruct the registrar and deputy registrars to reject any vehicle registration applications in my name for two years.

Post-Immobilization Disposal of Vehicle

So, what happens to my car after the immobilization period? If I fail to retrieve it, anyone who obtains it at that point is prohibited from selling or transferring it back to me. They are within their rights to sell it, scrap it, or dispose of it in a legal manner. If the car is scrapped, a salvage or scrap yard must clearly label the title as “FOR DESTRUCTION.”

In addition, the court will order the removal of the license plates, which will be sent to the registrar.

It’s important to note that despite the disposal of my car, I am still responsible for paying the immobilization fee.

Immobilization Waiver

In order for your vehicle to not be immobilized, a family member or someone living in your house can make a request. However, there are two conditions that must be met for the request to be granted.

  1. Firstly, the household or family member must file a motion in court before the immobilization order is issued. This motion should clearly state that the person filing is completely reliant on the vehicle for essential activities such as grocery runs, school drop-offs, doctor visits, and commute to work. It should also emphasize that immobilizing the vehicle would cause undue hardship for that person.
  2. Secondly, the court must determine that immobilizing the car would indeed impose an undue hardship on the family member as they heavily depend on it for their basic necessities of life.

The waiver will be issued with a specified duration, matching the length of the original immobilization period. Please note that there is a $50 fee associated with obtaining the waiver. A copy of the waiver will be filed with the court, provided to you, and given to the person who requested it.

The waiver will explicitly state the name of the requester, the involved vehicle, and the household or family members authorized to drive the car. It will also clearly state your name and specify that you are not permitted to drive the vehicle.

Throughout the duration of the waiver, the vehicle must display restricted plates.

It is important to note that the person granted the waiver is strictly prohibited from allowing you to drive the vehicle. If this occurs, the waiver will be terminated, and the vehicle will be immobilized for the remaining period of time. In addition, the household member will face charges of an unclassified misdemeanor, while you will be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor.

If you are currently facing the potential loss or immobilization of your vehicle, please call (304) 381-3656 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation.

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