Can I Lose My Vehicle If I’m Convicted of Drunk Driving?

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Criminal Forfeiture is the legal mechanism that a city or the State of Ohio may use to take someone’s property. Under Ohio’s traffic laws, there are several offenses that can result in the prosecutor seeking to forfeit the vehicle used in the traffic offense. Drunk driving, or OVI, is one such offense.

When Can My Vehicle Be Taken From Me?

If a person is convicted for a 1st or 2nd OVI offense, the vehicle may be subject to immobilization, but may not be subject to forfeiture.  However, if it is a person’s third or greater conviction for OVI within the last six years, the vehicle may be subject to criminal forfeiture.

In order for the vehicle used in the offense to be criminally forfeited, it must have been registered in the defendant’s name and the prosecutor must follow the procedures set forth in Section 4503.234 of the Ohio Revised Code.   If the vehicle was registered in the defendant’s name and the prosecutor follows the proper procedures, it is mandatory for the court to order the vehicle forfeit.

People faced with this situation often ask, “What if I sell the car before it is ordered forfeited?”  One of two things is likely to happen:  either the vehicle will be seized and forfeited anyway, which will be a problem for the new owner and a possible lawsuit for you, or the court will order you to pay a fine equivalent to the value of the vehicle.  Either way, it will cost you money.

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If your vehicle is subject to criminal forfeiture because you’ve been charged with OVI and you have at least two prior convictions in the last six years, contact an Experienced OVI Attorney to learn how to protect your liberty and your property.