The Bernalillo County Commission has unanimously approved an ordinance that allows sheriff’s deputies to seize a repeat DWI offender’s vehicle, if that individual is arrested again for drunk driving.
“DWI continues to be a huge threat to public safety in Bernalillo County,” says Commissioner Wayne Johnson.“If repeat offenders and their enablers know their vehicles can be taken away, it will make them think twice before deciding to drive drunk."
The County Commission passed the new Vehicle Seizure and Forfeiture Ordinance during Tuesday’s commission meeting. The law takes effect Oct. 25.
The new law impacts offenders who have been convicted of at least one DWI offense, and/or drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked as a result of an arrest or DWI conviction.
The new ordinance closely mirrors the City of Albuquerque’s DWI seizure and forfeiture law.
“This law will finally be enforced in all of Bernalillo County,” says Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston. “In the past, we’ve had drunk drivers within the city limits refuse to pull over until they crossed into the unincorporated areas of the county, because they knew their vehicles couldn’t be taken away. Now that behavior will stop.”
Offenders who want to challenge the validity of the vehicle seizure can request a hearing. A hearing officer will determine whether the vehicle was properly seized -- including releasing the vehicle to the rightful owner who shows that the offender did not have permission to use the vehicle.
The ordinance also includes alternatives to permanently losing a vehicle to seizure.
Offenders with two DWIs can get their vehicle back if they agree to have it booted for 30 days.
Convicted drunk drivers with more than two DWIs could get their vehicles booted for a longer period of time or the county could choose to move forward with forfeiture proceedings in district court.
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