Washington: Are Yakima prosecutors too lazy to enforce existing laws mandating seizure of vehicles owned by repeat DUI offenders?

From Yakima Herald Republic
You’ve heard of drug forfeitures. How about DUI forfeitures?

On a recent morning, a team of Yakima police officers and a city attorney armed with legal papers pulled up in front of a home a block from Fruitvale Boulevard, blocking in a 1997 GMC Suburban in the process.

The officers were there to take the Suburban, which belonged to a 28-year-old woman currently serving a 75-day jail sentence for her second drunken driving conviction in barely two years.

“If this works, it becomes ours,” explained Bronson Faul, a Yakima assistant city attorney. The seizure, the first in a test project by the city of Yakima, is his brainchild, and he was on scene to advise.

The seizure is more technically a forfeiture and applies only to motorists convicted of driving drunk two or more times in a seven-year period. It also applies only to the vehicle they were driving, and only then if they own it.

To publicize the new program, the city recently unveiled a 31-second video on its YouTube channel with the message, “Get two DUIs, lose your ride.”

The forfeitures are allowed under a 1994 state law that appears to be hardly ever used by prosecutors, maybe even never, according to Faul.

He stumbled across the statute a few years ago and started asking around if anybody knew about it. He said he got a negative response from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which queried prosecutors statewide, and experts with the State Patrol who train law enforcement agencies around the state on DUI arrests.

He’s not sure why the law isn’t commonly used, but it probably has something to do with a number of safeguards that include a 45-day claim period, an appeal process and protections for so-called innocent spousal interest as well as other lien holders on vehicles that have not been paid off yet. The use of proceeds from the seizures are at the city manager’s discretion, probably for the purpose of more DUI patrols, Faul said. ….MORE