Vehicle forfeiture for driving under the influence (DUI)

As of March 14, 2024, the second stage of amendments to the Criminal Code came into force, expressed through stricter sanctions for driving under the influence of alcohol. The legislator introduces the institution of forfeiture of the vehicle or its equivalent for DUI. The introduction of this type of sanction is intended to reduce the number of accidents caused by the intoxicated drivers and to make it more difficult for the offender to commit a crime in the future by depriving him of a motor vehicle or the means to purchase a new vehicle, in the case of forfeiture of the equivalent.

One of the most important principles in the adjudication of vehicle forfeiture or forfeiture of its equivalent, from the perspective of the perpetrator of a crime subject to forfeiture, is that the court’s adjudication of such forfeiture does not constitute as a punishment. This means, in practice, that the court, when judging the forfeiture of a vehicle or forfeiture of its equivalent, will not take into account the income or financial situation of the offender, as pointed out by the legislator in the justification of aforementioned amendment to the Criminal Code.

When can the court order forfeiture, and when is it obliged to do so by law?

According to amendments to the Criminal Code, the court may declare the forfeiture of a motor vehicle in cases specified in the law. These incidents include the conviction of a person driving a vehicle – while under the influence of alcohol or intoxicants, or fleeing the scene of an accident, or a person who has consumed alcohol or intoxicants – during or after committing the following acts:

  • causing a communication catastrophe,
  • bringing a danger of catastrophe in communication,
  • causing a traffic accident.

In the case where, in the body of the perpetrator of the above-mentioned acts, the blood alcohol content was higher than 1 permille (BAC levels – blood alcohol concentration) or 0.5 mg/dm3 (BrAC level – breath alcohol concentration) in exhaled air or led to such concentration, the Court is obliged to order forfeiture of the vehicle.

However, against a person driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, who has already been validly convicted of DUI or the aforementioned acts, the Court shall obligatorily declare forfeiture of the vehicle.

The Court shall also declare forfeiture of the vehicle against a person who is driving a motor vehicle under the state of intoxication unless the alcohol content in the offender’s body was less than 1.5 permille in blood or 0.75 mg/dm3 in exhaled air or did not lead to such concentration.

What are the principles of vehicle forfeiture? When will the vehicle be forfeited and when will the equivalent be forfeited?

As previously indicated, the Court shall declare the forfeiture of the motor vehicle in cases indicated by the law. On the other hand, if at the time of the event indicated by the law the vehicle was not the sole property of the perpetrator of the act, the Court shall pronounce the forfeiture of the equivalent value of the vehicle. An analogous situation occurs when the perpetrator, after committing the offense indicated by the law, sold, donated, or hid the vehicle subject to the forfeiture.

The amount equivalent to the vehicle subject to the forfeiture is considered to be the value of the vehicle as specified in the insurance policy for the year in which the incident occurred. However, in the absence of such a value specified in the insurance policy, the average market value of the vehicle corresponding – taking into account the brand, model, year of manufacture, type of body, type of propulsion and engine, engine capacity and horsepower, and approximate mileage – to the vehicle driven by the perpetrator shall be taken.

But in the case where the perpetrator drove a vehicle not belonging to him, in the course of his professional or business activities, which consisted of driving a vehicle on behalf of his employer, the Court shall order a payment of at least PLN 5,000.00 in restitution to the Fund for Victims’ Aid and Penitentiary Aid.

However, it should be pointed out that the Court shall not impose forfeiture of a motor vehicle when it is impossible or unreasonable to do so due to its loss by the perpetrator, destruction or significant damage.

An essential element, in view of the subject matter of this article, is the simultaneous procedural amendment of the Code of Criminal Procedure, authorizing the Police to temporarily seize a motor vehicle driven by the perpetrator at the time of committing the offense for which the vehicle is ordered forfeited.

Author: Marcin Jóźwiak


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