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Vehicle Impoundment & Criminal Seizure After OVI in Ohio

A guilty verdict for Operating a Vehicle while Impaired (OVI) in Ohio carries legally mandated minimum sanctions. Among these are immobilization or seizure of the vehicle involved in some specific OVI instances, as stipulated by the court.

The legal procedures necessitate that if the vehicle operated during the offense is registered to the convict, it will be immobilized and its license plates will be impounded as per the Ohio Revised Code (R.C.)§§4503.233 and 4511.19 or 4511.193.

Alternatively, should the vehicle be in the convict’s name, the court is compelled to execute criminal seizure of the vehicle under R.C. §§4503.234 and 4511.19 or R.C.§§4511.193 and 4511.195(C) and (D).

It’s essential to understand that consequences such as the immobilization, seizure of the vehicle, and impoundment of the license plates are triggered only FOLLOWING a first OVI conviction, in line with R.C. §4511.19(G)(1)(b), (c), (d), and (e), and R.C. §4503.233.

In scenarios where the vehicle’s immobilization poses an undue burden on a family member who needs the vehicle and was not involved in the offense, they may request a hardship exemption as described in R.C. §4503.235(A).

Should questions arise regarding Ohio’s laws concerning vehicle immobilization and criminal seizure post a multiple OVI conviction, we at Youngstown Criminal Law Group stand ready to assist. Connect with our seasoned Youngstown criminal lawyer for a thorough case discussion.

Following a second or subsequent OVI charge, Ohio law requires the imposition of specific judicial orders:

For a Second-Time OVI (within six years):

  • The court mandates a Class 4 license suspension ranging from one to five years.
  • Provision allows for restricted driving privileges.
  • An obligatory 90-day vehicle immobilization is enforced.
  • License plates must be impounded for 90 days compulsorily.

For a Third-Time OVI (within six years):

  • A Class 3 license suspension is decreed, spanning two to ten years.
  • Restricted driving privileges may be granted.
  • The court orders a compulsory seizure of the vehicle.

For a Fourth or More OVI Offense (within six years) or Sixth OVI (within 20 years):

  • A Class 2 license suspension is decreed, lasting from three years up to a permanent suspension.
  • Granting limited driving privileges is allowable.
  • A mandatory criminal seizure of the vehicle is enforced.

For OVI Post a Prior Felony Conviction:

  • The court imposes a Class 2 suspension, which can extend from three years to a lifetime.
  • Limited driving privileges may be considered.
  • The vehicle seizure is enacted as a mandatory decree.

After the conviction, a $100 fee for the vehicle immobilization is levied, see R.C. §4503.233(B). The immobilization or seizure measures are applicable solely if the offender is the vehicle’s registered owner, and the vehicle was implicated in the offense.

Essential Points for an OVI Immobilization Directive

When the court issues a directive for immobilizing a vehicle due to an Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI) violation, it’s crucial that the order encompasses specific details:

Core Details Included in the Court Order:

  • Immobilization Duration: The total time the vehicle will be immobilized.
  • Vehicle Description: Clear identification including the make, model, and year.
  • Issuance Date: The calendar date when the order was put into effect.
  • Authorized Executor: The officer, agency, or third party assigned to carry out the immobilization. This may be the initial seizing of the officer’s agency, court personnel, someone the court singles out as suitable, or the local authority overseeing the owner’s residence.
  • Registrar Restrictions: Until the immobilization fee is settled, the vehicle’s owner cannot register any license plates with the registrar or any deputy registrar.

Immobilization Location Options:

  • A government-owned property, such as a facility operated by law enforcement.
  • A privately owned commercial storage venue.
  • A location falling into one of the following categories:
  • Leased by or controlled by a government body.
  • Owned by the offender, their spouse, or immediate family.
  • Privately owned, with prior written consent granted for immobilization.
  • Publicly accessible streets or highways where the vehicle is legally parked.

Timing of Immobilization Enforcement:

The immobilization timeline activates on the actual day the vehicle becomes immobilized. If the vehicle was previously impounded under R.C. §4510.41 or §4511.195, the interim will be factored into the total immobilization period. Refer to R.C. §4503.233(D)(1) for the full policy.

Procedures during and post Immobilization:

  • Collection and Destruction of License Plates:

The appointed officer or body must confiscate the vehicle’s license plates and send them to the bureau of motor vehicles for destruction.

  • Release and Registration Renewal:

Upon completing the immobilization term and payment of the pertinent fee, the authority will authorize the vehicle’s release. They will also grant permission to acquire new plates and, if required, a new registration certificate. The offender is responsible for the fee equivalent to replacing lost or damaged plates and registration documents as per R.C. §4503.233(C).

Violation and Consequences:

If anyone is caught operating the immobilized vehicle on public roads during the immobilization period, there are severe ramifications. The vehicle will be impounded, then subsequently subjected to criminal forfeiture and shall be disposed of in alignment with R.C. §4503.234, though it won’t be deemed contraband under R.C. Chapter 2981.

Unclaimed Vehicles Post Immobilization and Non-Payment:

Should the vehicle remain unclaimed for seven days following the immobilization period’s conclusion—or if the fee remains unpaid—the executing individual or organization must notify the offender. This notification will disclose that the offender has a 20-day window post-notification to settle the fee and retrieve the vehicle. Failure to comply will lead to forfeiture of the vehicle under R.C. §4503.234 to the authorized fee-collecting entity; see R.C.§4503.234(D)(3) for details.

For those navigating through an OVI immobilization order, understanding these elements is vital for compliance with the court’s stipulations. It’s important to be aware of the processes and the serious consequences for failing to adhere to such directives. The key is to stay informed and to follow the legal requirements to the letter to avoid further complications.

Guidelines for Selling an Immobilized Vehicle

Before making any decisions to sell a vehicle that has been subjected to an immobilization order, the vehicle owner must be aware of the following critical legal requirements and restrictions.

Required Court Approval for Selling Immobilized Vehicles

  • An offender cannot proceed with the sale of an immobilized vehicle unless they’ve received approval from the court.
  • The court may give consent for the sale if it is convinced of its legitimacy and is not merely a tactic to evade the immobilization order.
  • This certification process of consent is detailed in R.C. §4503.233(D)(4).

Restrictions Post-Arrest and Pre-Immobilization

  • Any assignment or transfer of the vehicle’s title without the court’s consent within the period from the time of arrest to the immobilization renders specific consequences:
  • For a span of two years after such unauthorized transfer, neither the registrar nor any deputy registrar will be allowed to process applications for vehicle registration in the name of the offending party as per R.C. §4503.233(D)(5).

Court-Ordered Title Transfer of the Vehicle

In situations where:

  • The offender exhibits no intention to reclaim the vehicle,
  • The offender cannot manage or declines to cover the removal and storage costs,

Then the court may command a title transfer following a priority order, under R.C. §4503.233(E)(3):

  1. To an Immobilization Fee Entitled Entity:
  2. The obligated entity receives the vehicle title and must clear all existing liens.
  3. To a Lien Holder:
  4. A lien holder who takes over the title must take care of all removal and storage expenses.
  5. To the Storage Facility Owner:
  6. The storage facility owner becomes the new owner of the vehicle.

Vehicle Disposal After Immobilization

  • The new titleholder has the liberty to retain or lawfully dispose of the vehicle.
  • It is prohibited for the new owner to pass the vehicle back to the previous owner.
  • If the vehicle is directed to a salvage dealer or scrap processing, the parties involved are required to follow certain procedures according to R.C. §4503.233(E)(1).

License Plate Removal and Final Proceedings

  • The court is mandated to ensure the removal of the vehicle’s license plates and dispatch them to the registrar.
  • Once these steps are executed, there are to be no further proceedings under R.C. §4503.233(E), although liabilities for the immobilization fees persist as per R.C. §4503.233(E)(2).

Understanding the Waiver of Vehicle Immobilization in Ohio

In Ohio, certain situations allow for a vehicle to avoid immobilization, which is commonly mandated under specific driving offenses. This waiver can be sought under Ohio Revised Code (R.C.) §4503.235 if the conditions meet the criteria set forth by law. Here’s a breakdown of the process and what the law entails.

Criteria for Waiver of Immobilization

A vehicle’s immobilization, usually mandated as a penalty under R.C. §§4511.19(G) or 4511.193(B), may be waived if these two conditions are met:

  • Necessity and Undue Hardship: A motion must be filed before the court order by a relative or someone living with the offender—referred to as a family or household member—claiming total dependence on the vehicle for essential life needs and arguing that immobilizing the vehicle would cause undue hardship.
  •  Court Approval: The court must agree that the family or household member indeed relies on the vehicle for essential needs and verify that immobilization would result in undue hardship for them.

The term “Family or household member” here references the definition in R.C. §2919.25, with the additional requirement that the individual must currently live with the offender, as specified in R.C. §4503.235(F).

Specifics of the Waiver Order

When an immobilization waiver is granted, it should clearly state:

  • Effective Duration: The order must outline how long the waiver is effective, aligning with the period during which the vehicle would have otherwise been immobilized under the law.
  • Waiver Fee: A fee of $50 is imposed for the waiver, and the court decides whether it should be paid by the offender or the family or household member, detailed in R.C. §4503.235(B).
  • Restrictions and Permissions: The order must name the family or household member who filed for it, the vehicle it concerns, who is allowed to drive the vehicle, and explicitly state that the offender is not permitted to drive it.

Furthermore, vehicles under the waiver must display specialized plates according to R.C. §4503.231 throughout the term that immobilization would have been in effect, as per R.C. §4503.235(C).

Breach of Conditions

Should a family or household member allow the offender to operate the waived vehicle, severe repercussions follow:

  • Order Revocation: The court will cancel the waiver and replace it with a standard immobilization order for the remaining duration initially intended.
  • Legal Violations: The family or household member’s actions constitute a breach of R.C. §4511.203, and should the offender drive the vehicle, they commit a 1st-degree misdemeanor, contravening R.C. §4503.235(E).

Vehicle Transfer and Criminal Forfeiture

If the ownership of a vehicle is subject to forfeiture because of offenses noted in R.C.§4511.19(G)(1)(c), (d), or (e), and R.C. §4503.234(B)(2) or (3) is reassigned or sold, the court may level a fine against the offender equivalent to the vehicle’s value based on National Auto Dealers Association guides, as explained in R.C. §4511.195(G)(6).

Understanding this law is crucial for individuals potentially facing vehicle immobilization and for family or household members who may be affected by such legal actions. It’s important to recognize that while the court offers waivers under certain circumstances, the responsibility of adherence to the terms falls on the individuals involved. Non-compliance can lead to additional legal consequences, including fines and criminal charges.

The laws and regulations can seem complex, but adherence to these steps is essential in avoiding legal complications when dealing with an immobilized vehicle. Always consult with legal professionals or call us at (330) 992-3036 for guidance tailored to your situation.

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