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§ 40-6-391.2. Seizure and forfeiture of motor vehicle operated by habitual violator.

§ 40-6-391.2.  Seizure and forfeiture of motor vehicle operated by habitual violator.

   (a) Except as provided in this Code section, any motor vehicle operated by a person who has been declared a habitual violator for three violations of Code Section 40-6-391 and whose license has been revoked and who is arrested and charged with a violation of Code Section 40-6-391, is declared to be contraband and subject to forfeiture to the state, as provided in this Code section, provided that said forfeiture shall not be absolute unless the defendant is finally convicted of such offense.

(b) Any motor vehicle subject to forfeiture under subsection (a) of this Code section shall be seized immediately upon discovery by any law enforcement officer, peace officer, or law enforcement agency of this state or any political subdivision thereof who has the power to make arrests and whose duty it is to enforce this article, that said motor vehicle has been declared contraband. Said motor vehicle shall be delivered within 20 days to the district attorney whose circuit includes the county in which a seizure is made or to his duly authorized agent. At any time subsequent to the seizure, the chief officer of the seizing agency, his designee, or the district attorney may release the vehicle upon bond being posted in like manner as authorized in subsection (e) of this Code section.

(c) Within 60 days from the date of the seizure, the district attorney of the judicial circuit, or the director on his behalf, shall cause to be filed in the superior court of the county in which the motor vehicle is seized or detained an action for condemnation of such motor vehicle. The proceedings shall be brought in the name of the state by the district attorney of the circuit in which the motor vehicle was seized, and the action shall be verified by a duly authorized agent of the state in a manner required by the law of this state. The action shall describe the motor vehicle and state its location, present custodian, and the name of the owner, if known, to the duly authorized agent of the state; allege the essential elements of the violation which is claimed to exist; and conclude with a prayer of due process to enforce the forfeiture. Upon the filing of such an action, the court shall promptly cause process to issue to the present custodian in possession of the motor vehicle described in the action, commanding him to seize the motor vehicle in the action and to hold that motor vehicle for further order of the court. The owner, lessee, or any person having a duly recorded security interest in or lien on such motor vehicle shall be notified by any means of service provided for in Title 9 or by delivery of a copy of the complaint and summons by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery to said owner or lienholder or a person of suitable age or discretion having charge of said owner's premises. For purposes of this subsection, where forfeiture of a motor vehicle titled or registered in Georgia is sought, notice to the titleholder shall be deemed adequate if a copy of the complaint and summons is mailed by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery to the titleholder at the address set out in the title and an additional copy is mailed by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery to the firm, person, or corporation which holds the current registration for said motor vehicle, who shall be deemed agent for service for said titleholder, and said complaint is advertised once a week for two weeks as set out in this subsection. If the owner, lessee, or person having a duly recorded security interest in or lien on the contraband motor vehicle is unknown or resides out of the state or departs the state or cannot after due diligence be found within the state or conceals himself so as to avoid notice, notice of the proceedings shall be published once a week for two weeks in the newspaper in which the sheriff's advertisements are published. Such publication shall be deemed notice to any and all persons having an interest in or right affected by such proceeding and any sale of the motor vehicle resulting therefrom, but shall not constitute notice to any person having a duly recorded security interest in or lien upon such motor vehicle and required to be served under this Code section unless that person is unknown or resides out of the state or departs the state or cannot after due diligence be found within the state or conceals himself to avoid notice.
   (d)(1) Any party at interest may appear, by answer under oath, and file an intervention or defense within 30 days from the date of service on the condemnee of the action for condemnation. The owner, lessee, security interest holder, or lienholder shall be permitted to defend by showing that the motor vehicle seized was not subject to forfeiture under this Code section.

   (2) A rented or leased vehicle shall not be subject to forfeiture unless it is established in the forfeiture proceedings that the owner of the rented or leased vehicle knew or should have known of or consented to the operation of such motor vehicle in a manner which would subject the vehicle to forfeiture. Upon learning of the address or phone number of the rental or leasing company which owns such vehicle, the district attorney shall immediately contact the company to inform it that the vehicle is available for the company to take possession.

(e) The court to which any such petition for condemnation may be referred may, in its discretion, allow any party at interest, after making said defense under subsection (d) of this Code section, to give bond and take possession of the motor vehicle seized. Such motor vehicle shall not be sold or leased without prior approval of the court. In the event the court approves such sale or lease, the proceeds arising therefrom shall be deposited in the registry of the court, pending final adjudication of the forfeiture proceeding. The court shall determine whether the bond shall be a forthcoming bond or an eventual condemnation money bond and shall also determine the amount of the bond. The enforcement of any bond so given shall be regulated by the general law applicable to such cases.

(f) If no defense or intervention is filed within 30 days from the date of service on the condemnee of the petition, judgment shall be entered by the court and the motor vehicle shall be sold. The court may direct that such property be sold by:

   (1) Judicial sale as provided in Article 7 of Chapter 13 of Title 9; provided, however, that the court may establish a minimum acceptable price for such property; or

   (2) Any commercially feasible means.

(g) The proceeds arising from such sale shall be deposited into the general treasury of the state or any other governmental unit whose law enforcement agency it was that originally seized the motor vehicle. It is the intent of the General Assembly that, where possible, proceeds deposited into the state treasury should be used and that proceeds vested in any local governmental unit shall be applied to fund alcohol or drug treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention and education programs, after making the necessary expenditures for:

   (1) Any costs incurred in the seizure;

   (2) The costs of the court and its officers; and

   (3) Any cost incurred in the storage, advertisement, maintenance, or care of the motor vehicle.

(h) The interest of an owner, lessee, security interest holder, or lienholder shall not be subject to forfeiture unless the condemnor shows by a preponderance of evidence that such person knew or reasonably should have known that the operator was a habitual violator as set forth in subsection (a) of this Code section and knew or reasonably should have known that such person would operate or was operating the vehicle while in violation of Code Section 40-6-391.

(i) In any case where a vehicle which is the only family vehicle is determined to be subject to forfeiture, the court may, if it determines that the financial hardship to the family as a result of the forfeiture and sale outweighs the benefit to the state from such forfeiture, order the title to the vehicle transferred to such other family member who is a duly licensed operator and who requires the use of such vehicle for employment or family transportation purposes. Such transfer shall be subject to any valid liens and shall be granted only once.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia