Distinguishing between Vehicle Seizure and Vehicle Forfeiture
In Canada, vehicle seizure and vehicle forfeiture are two separate legal processes that are used in different situations.
Vehicle seizure refers to the temporary taking of a vehicle by a law enforcement agency, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), when the vehicle is being used in the commission of a crime or if it is evidence of a crime. Additionally, the RCMP can seize a vehicle if it is abandoned or if it is being driven by someone who is prohibited from driving. In some cases, a vehicle can also be seized if the owner is found to violate certain laws or regulations, such as not having valid insurance or registration and possessing a learner’s permit while driving without an appropriate accompanying driver.
Vehicle forfeiture, on the other hand, refers to the permanent taking of a vehicle by the government following a legal process, usually in cases where the vehicle was used in the commission of a crime or the proceeds of crime, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, etc.
In summary, vehicle seizure is a temporary measure where the vehicle is held by the authorities until the investigation or court case is complete, while vehicle forfeiture is a permanent measure where the vehicle is permanently taken by the government.
What happens when your vehicle is seized?
Generally, the vehicle will be taken into custody and held as evidence or as a means of preventing further criminal activity. The owner of the vehicle will typically be notified of the seizure and provided with information about the reason for the seizure and the process for claiming the vehicle.
If the vehicle is being held as evidence, it will typically be kept until the investigation or court case is complete. If the vehicle is not needed as evidence, the owner may be able to retrieve it after paying any fines or fees associated with the seizure.
Additionally, if the vehicle was seized because of the owner's involvement in criminal activity, the vehicle may be subject to forfeiture and be sold at auction, or be kept as part of an investigation.
How do I reclaim a seized vehicle?
The owner of the vehicle will be notified of the seizure and will receive information about the reason for the seizure and the process for claiming the vehicle.
If the vehicle is not being held as evidence the owner can expect to go through the following steps.
- Contact the agency that seized the vehicle for specific requirements and procedures for claiming the vehicle.
- Prove ownership of the vehicle by providing documentation such as the vehicle registration or bill of sale.
- Pay any fines or fees associated with the seizure before the vehicle can be released.
- Retrieve the vehicle.
What fines and fees are associated with vehicle seizures?
In general, the fines and fees may include:
- Towing and storage fees: The fees can vary depending on the location and the length of time the vehicle is being held.
- Administrative fees: These are the costs associated with processing the seizure and any paperwork related to the case.
- Legal Fees: If the owner wants to fight the seizure in court, they may incur legal fees.
- Fines: If the vehicle was seized because the owner was found to be in violation of certain laws or regulations, such as not having valid insurance or registration, they may be required to pay fines.
Can a vehicle subjected to forfeiture be reclaimed?
In Canada, the ability to reclaim a vehicle that has been subject to forfeiture can depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction where the forfeiture occurred.
It is often the case that vehicles that are subject to forfeiture are permanently taken by the government and cannot be reclaimed by the previous owner. The vehicle may be sold at auction or kept as part of an investigation.
However, in some cases, the owner of the vehicle may be able to claim it back if they can prove that the vehicle was not used in the commission of the crime or that they were not aware of the criminal activity that led to the forfeiture. This will depend on the specific laws and regulations in the jurisdiction where the forfeiture occurred.
In some jurisdictions, the owner may be able to apply for a remission of forfeiture, which is a discretionary process that allows the owner to ask the government to return the property.
What rights do you have when your vehicle gets seized?
When your vehicle gets seized in Canada, you have certain rights that are protected under the law. These rights can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. However, some of the rights that you may have include:
- The right to be informed: You have the right to be informed of the reason for the seizure of your vehicle and the legal process that will be followed. This includes being informed of the seizure and the grounds for it.
- The right to due process: You have the right to due process, which includes the right to be notified of the seizure, the right to contest the seizure and to have a hearing before a neutral third party, and the right to appeal the decision in a higher court if you are not satisfied.
- The right to legal representation: You have the right to legal representation and to have a lawyer present during any court proceedings related to the seizure of your vehicle.
- The right to compensation: If your vehicle is seized and not returned to you, you may be entitled to compensation from the government for the value of your vehicle.
- The right to challenge the seizure: You have the right to challenge the seizure of your vehicle if you believe that it was not done in accordance with the law or that your rights were violated.
It's worth noting that these rights may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case, and it's advisable to consult with a lawyer for specific information about the laws and regulations in your area and what rights you have.
How can a criminal lawyer help?
A criminal lawyer can help in a number of ways if your vehicle has been seized or is subject to forfeiture by the authorities. Some of the ways that a criminal lawyer can help include:
- Advising on your rights: A criminal lawyer can advise you on your rights and the laws and regulations that apply to your situation. This can include explaining the legal process that you will need to go through and what your options are.
- Representing you in court: If your vehicle has been seized and you are facing criminal charges, your lawyer can represent you in court and work to have your charges dismissed or reduced. If your vehicle is subject to forfeiture, your lawyer can represent you in court and argue your case for why the vehicle should not be permanently taken by the government.
- Negotiating with the authorities: In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the authorities and work out a settlement that is in your best interests. This could include working out a plea bargain or an agreement for the return of your vehicle.
- Advising on the process of claim: A lawyer can advise on the process of claim and help you navigate the process of reclaiming your vehicle if that is possible.
- Fighting against abuse of laws: A lawyer can also help you fight against abuse of laws and regulations by the authorities, and help you to seek justice if you believe that your rights have been violated.
Can forfeiture laws be abused by the authorities?
The forfeiture laws, like any other laws, can be subject to abuse by the authorities if they are not properly enforced or if they are not clearly defined. Some ways in which forfeiture laws can be abused include:
- Lack of proper oversight: Without proper oversight, law enforcement agencies may seize and forfeit property without sufficient evidence or without following proper procedures.
- Financial Incentives: Some law enforcement agencies may be motivated to seize and forfeit property because the proceeds from the sale of the property go back to the agency. This can create a financial incentive for the agency to seize and forfeit property without sufficient cause.
- Lack of Due Process: Some forfeiture laws do not provide for adequate due process, such as notifying the owner of the property, providing an opportunity for the owner to contest the forfeiture, or providing for a hearing before a neutral third party.
- Racial and Socioeconomic Bias: Some studies have indicated that minority communities and low-income individuals may be disproportionately affected by forfeiture laws, particularly in cases where the authorities use the laws to target certain communities or to generate revenue.
If you feel that your rights are being violated, call Nicholas Robinson for a free consultation at (306) 585-1777.