Many drivers in North Carolina are shocked when their vehicle is seized by the state following an arrest (not conviction) for Driving While Impaired (DWI). But, it turns out, the state legislature has made vehicles subject to seizure in any case in which the driver is arrested for DWI while either driving while his or her license is already revoked as a result of a prior DWI, or if the individual has no valid license at the time and lacks liability insurance.
BUT: In such cases, a rarely cited provision of North Carolina law explicitly provides for an enhanced speedy trial right in every such case. Specifically, NC General Statute 20-28(m) states as follows:
§ 20-28.3. Seizure, impoundment, forfeiture of motor vehicles for offenses involving impaired driving while license revoked or without license and insurance.
(m) Trial Priority. – District court trials of impaired driving offenses involving forfeitures of motor vehicles pursuant to G.S. 20-28.2 shall be scheduled on the arresting officer’s next court date or within 30 days of the offense, whichever comes first.
Once scheduled, the case shall not be continued unless all of the following conditions are met:
(1) A written motion for continuance is filed with notice given to the opposing party prior to the motion being heard.
(2) The judge makes a finding of a “compelling reason” for the continuance.
(3) The motion and finding are attached to the court case record.
In other words, the statute mandates that you are entitled to a trial no later than 30 days after your arrest — even if the officer’s next court date is later than that date.
If you are arrested for a DWI and your vehicle is seized, you should contact a lawyer immediately to make sure that you seize the opportunity to assert your rights and pursue every legal angle available to you.
Raleigh DWI attorney Ben Hiltzheimer is a criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina, who represents individuals charged with DWIs and the full spectrum of misdemeanors and felonies. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation at (919) 727-9227.