Understanding Tennessee’s DUI Vehicle Seizure Laws

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

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Vehicular seizure

Drunk driving is a serious offense in Tennessee. In 2021, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) alone issued nearly 5,000 DUI citations, with local police departments making even more DUI arrests. A first-time DUI offense can result in severe penalties, including license suspension, fines, and even jail time.

Repeat DUI offenders face even harsher consequences, including the possible forfeiture of their vehicles. In this comprehensive blog, we’ll delve into the crucial aspects of Tennessee’s DUI vehicle seizure laws that every driver should be aware of.

Vehicle Forfeiture for Multiple DUI Offenses In Tennessee

Tennessee enforces stricter penalties for second, third, and fourth-time DUI offenses to deter drunk driving and protect public safety. According to Tennessee state law (TN Code § 55-10-414), a vehicle involved in a person’s second or subsequent DUI offense may be “subject to seizure and forfeiture.”

Asset forfeiture is a legal process in which authorities confiscate property alleged to be the proceeds of or the instrument used in a crime. In DUI cases, the vehicle is generally considered the instrument used to commit the offense. This law aims to provide a strong disincentive for repeat offenders by taking away the means of committing the crime.

Understanding Vehicle Seizure for Second-Time DUI Cases in Tennessee

Not every second-time DUI case in Tennessee results in vehicle seizure. However, authorities have the power to initiate forfeiture proceedings at their discretion. To safeguard your vehicle after a second or subsequent DUI arrest, it’s essential to understand the potential consequences, such as car seizure, before pleading guilty. Being proactive and informed can help you make the best decisions for your situation.

Tennessee's Notice of Property Seizure and Forfeiture Procedure

Police officers in Tennessee cannot permanently take your property without notice. You are entitled to receive a ‘Notice of Seizure and Forfeiture of Conveyances’ from the officer initiating your vehicle’s forfeiture. This document serves as an official notification of the government’s intent to seize your property.

Generally, you have 30 days from receiving this form to request a forfeiture hearing. At the hearing, you can present a defense against the state’s seizure of your vehicle, such as arguing that the vehicle was not involved in the DUI offense or that the seizure would create an undue hardship. If you don’t request a hearing after receiving a vehicle forfeiture notice, one won’t be scheduled, and the government will take your property.

Safeguard Your Rights and Your Vehicle: Retain a DUI Attorney

The government can seize your vehicle if you commit two or more DUI offenses in Tennessee. However, an arrest doesn’t equate to a violation – it’s an allegation. To best protect your vehicle from asset forfeiture, hire a skilled Tennessee DUI defense attorney promptly following an arrest. Your lawyer will assess the charges and explore all options to defend you, including:

  • Ensuring your rights were respected during the DUI arrest: Your attorney will investigate whether the police followed proper procedures, such as having reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop and probable cause for arrest.
  • Collecting evidence that may exonerate you from the charges: Your attorney may gather evidence, such as surveillance footage or witness testimony, to establish your innocence or cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.
  • Negotiating a plea deal that may exclude certain penalties, such as vehicle forfeiture: Your attorney can work with the prosecution to reach an agreement that reduces the charges or penalties, potentially sparing your vehicle from seizure.

Each DUI case is unique, but all are serious matters. If you’re arrested for a repeat DUI in East Tennessee, act quickly to protect your rights, license, freedom, and vehicle by consulting a Knoxville DUI defense attorney. A DUI attorney plays a vital role in defending your rights and helping you navigate the legal system. They will:

  • Provide guidance and support throughout the process: Your attorney will be with you every step of the way, answering your questions and providing expert advice based on their knowledge and experience.
  • Analyze your case and develop a defense strategy: Your attorney will carefully review the facts of your case and the evidence against you to determine the most effective defense strategy.
  • Represent you in court: If your case goes to trial, your attorney will advocate on your behalf, presenting your defense and challenging the prosecution’s evidence.

Contact Our Knoxville DUI Attorneys for Assistance

At Barnes & Fersten, our DUI attorneys have the expertise and legal knowledge to handle all manners of DUI charges. Our office in Knoxville serves clients throughout East Tennessee, including Blount County, Sevier County, Loudon County, Anderson County, and Roane County. We are committed to providing personalized legal representation and will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact our DUI attorneys for the expert guidance and representation you need to protect your rights, your vehicle, and your future.

Attorney At Law, Managing Partner

Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUIcriminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.