Harnett County, North Carolina
 
Clerk of Court 
 
Vehicle Seizures, Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Why has my vehicle been seized?
  2. Where is my vehicle now?
  3. What will happen to my vehicle?
  4. How can I get my vehicle back?
  5. If the vehicle is released to me, am I required to pay the towing and storage costs?
  6. What if my pretrial request is denied?
  7. My vehicle has been sold prior to trial -- what does this mean?
  8. How may I recover personal property that I left in the vehicle?
  9. What if the vehicle was damaged during the offense?
  10. What if my request for release at the forfeiture hearing is denied? May I appeal?
  11. If the vehicle is released to me, how do I retake possession of it?
Q. Why has my vehicle been seized?
A. In North Carolina, if (1) a person is charged with an impaired driving offense and (2) at the time of the offense the person’s license is already revoked for a prior impaired driving offense, then the law enforcement officer must seize the vehicle even if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle. (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. Where is my vehicle now?
A. The vehicle will first be towed to a local storage facility. To identify the local storage facility, contact the law enforcement agency that arrested the driver (e.g., State Highway Patrol, local police department, county sheriff). At some point, usually within three to five days, the vehicle will be towed to a central storage facility in Linden, NC, which is on the Harnett County/Cumberland County line. To contact the storage facility in Linden, telephone Martin, Edwards & Associates at (910) 897-6382, or visit their website at www.martinedwardsinc.com (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. What will happen to my vehicle?
A. Based on certain factors, the court will either (1) return the vehicle to the owner (also known as “releasing” the vehicle) or (2) transfer ownership of the vehicle to the local school board (also known as “forfeiting” the vehicle). There is also a possibility that the vehicle may be sold prior to the trial on the impaired driving offense. Pretrial sales are discussed below. (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. How can I get my vehicle back?
A. Here are the options that vehicle owners and lienholders can use to retake possession of the seized vehicle:

Temporary pretrial bond release to an owner other than the driver: If you were the registered owner of the vehicle at the time of the seizure and you were not the driver at the time of the seizure, you may post a bond equal to the fair market value of the vehicle. Posting the bond will allow you to take possession of the vehicle temporarily until the next court hearing on the vehicle. There are other requirements that you will need to satisfy in addition to posting the bond. You should ask the Clerk of Superior Court for forms CR-330 and CR-331.

Permanent pretrial release to an “innocent owner” other than the driver: If you were the registered owner of the vehicle at the time of the seizure and you were not the driver at the time of the seizure, you can secure the permanent release of the vehicle if you can demonstrate to the clerk’s office that you are “innocent.” There are five different ways that you can demonstrate your innocence:
  • You did not know and had no reason to know that the defendant’s drivers license was revoked.
  • You knew that the defendant's license was revoked, but the defendant drove the vehicle without your permission and you have filed a police report for unauthorized use of the vehicle and you have agreed to prosecute the defendant for the unauthorized operation.
  • You had reported the theft of the vehicle (i.e., the defendant stole the vehicle from you and then used it to commit the offense).
  • You are in the business of renting vehicles and the defendant was not listed as an authorized driver on the rental contract.
  • You are in the business of leasing motor vehicles, you held legal title to the motor vehicle as a lessor at the time of seizure and you did not know the lessee's drivers license was revoked at the time you entered into the lease agreement.
There are other requirements that you must satisfy in addition to proving that you are an “innocent owner.” You should ask the clerk’s office for form CR-330. Once you file this petition, the clerk will schedule a proceeding to review your petition as soon as may be feasible. Depending on the workload of the clerk and other factors, the clerk may not be able to review your petition immediately.

Permanent pretrial release to an owner who was also the driver: If you were the driver and the registered owner of the vehicle at the time of the seizure, you can secure the permanent release of the vehicle if you can demonstrate that, at the time of the seizure, your license was not revoked for a prior impaired driving offense. There are other requirements that you must satisfy. You should ask the clerk for form CR-333.

Permanent pretrial release to a lienholder: If you are a lienholder you may secure the release of the vehicle if
  • you held a perfected security interest in the vehicle at the time of the seizure,
  • the owner is in default,
  • as a result of the default you are entitled to possession of the vehicle,
  • you agree to sell the vehicle and pay into the clerk’s office the net sale proceeds and
  • you agree not to sell, give, or otherwise transfer possession of the vehicle to the defendant or the owner.

There are other requirements that you must satisfy as a lienholder. You should ask the clerk’s office for form CR-334. You must serve a copy of the form on the owner, the DA and the school board attorney. If these parties consent to your petition, the clerk will release the vehicle to you. If they do not consent, there will be a court hearing on your petition.

Please provide the Clerk's office with:

  • A copy of your valid NC Drivers' License
  • Copy of vehicle registration or title
  • Proof of insurance (FS-1 form). This may be faxed to (910) 814-4560
  • Copy of incident report, warrant and or summons if filing as innocent owner under unauthorized use of a motor vehicle

(Last updated on 05/15/2013 )

Q. If the vehicle is released to me, am I required to pay the towing and storage costs?
A. You must pay all accumulated towing and storage charges to the company holding the vehicle before the company will release the vehicle to you. There are no exceptions to this requirement. However, if the defendant is convicted, the court may order the defendant to repay you for this amount. (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. What if my pretrial request is denied?
A. You do not have a right to appeal immediately from a decision of the clerk or the court denying your pretrial release petition. You must wait until the court has acted on the impaired driving offense. If the defendant is not convicted, the court will permanently release the vehicle to the owner. If the defendant is convicted, the court will hold a “forfeiture hearing” on the status of the vehicle. Owners, defendant-owners and lienholders may request the release of the vehicle again at this hearing (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. My vehicle has been sold prior to trial -- what does this mean?
A. The NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is allowed to sell the vehicle prior to trial if one of the following has occurred:
  • 90 days have passed since the date of seizure and the vehicle has a fair market value of $1,500 or less,
  • the accumulated towing and storage costs exceed 85% of the fair market value, or
  • the owner of the vehicle has consented to the sale.
DPI will pay the net proceeds of the sale into the clerk’s office. These proceeds will later be released to the owner or forfeited to the school board just as the vehicle would have been. (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. How may I recover personal property that I left in the vehicle?
A. Contact the company that is storing the vehicle. You can retrieve your personal property if you can provide sufficient proof to the company that you own the items. (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. What if the vehicle was damaged during the offense?
A. The NC Division of Motor Vehicles will instruct the insurance company to pay the insurance proceeds into the clerk’s office. The proceeds will later be released or forfeited in the same manner as the vehicle. (Note: There is a special procedure for totaled vehicles.) (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. What if my request for release at the forfeiture hearing is denied? May I appeal?
A. You may appeal the denial of your post-trial request for the release of the vehicle. Generally speaking, you may appeal the court’s decision to the NC Court of Appeals. However, if the defendant is convicted in District Court and appeals the conviction to Superior Court, your appeal of the release/forfeiture decision may also be heard by the Superior Court. (Last updated on 07/16/2002 )
Q. If the vehicle is released to me, how do I retake possession of it?
A. You must contact the company that is storing your vehicle to arrange a date and time to pick up the vehicle. The company should specify the items that you will need to bring with you to the storage site (for example, a photo ID, a certified copy of the release order, payment for the towing and storage costs). If the vehicle is stored in Linden and you would prefer not to travel to Linden, the company will tow it back to your location for a fee.