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Sanctions for driving while intoxicated are intended to keep offenders from repeating their mistake. Consequences range from fines to the loss of one’s driver’s license. But what if those consequences included the loss of your car? One city in Washington state is hoping to reduce DUIs by taking away offenders’ keys–and the vehicle they start.

A little used 1994 Washington State law allows law enforcement to confiscate, keep, and even sell vehicles owned by motorists who have been convicted of two or more DUIs in a 7 year period. Even though the provision has been on the books for nearly two decades, it has rarely been used. Now, officials in Yakima are testing it out in an effort to curb drunk driving. Yakima, with a population of just over 90,000, ranks fourth in the state for DUI cases, behind Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma, even though it is only the state’s eighth largest city.

Bronson Faul, a Yakima assistant city attorney, came up with the idea for the new program, which the city has titled “Get 2 DUIs, Lose Your Ride!” The hope is that the threat of losing their car for goodwill get people who have had one too many to think twice before they get behind the wheel. The city even developed a 31-second ad to inform residents if they drive drunk they may forfeit their car. Faul expects proceeds from seized vehicles will go to support more DUI patrols.

But the program does present some challenges. As a recent story in the Yakima Herald-Republic notes, there’s 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.” In addition, the vehicle involved in the case must be owned by the offender. And in order to seize a vehicle, officers must first be able to find it–a process that can take considerable time and effort.

Even so, city officials are willing to try something new to try to curb drunk driving and make their community safer. And indeed, drunk driving has become a prominent issue throughout the state in recent months following two high-profile DUI cases earlier this year. In response to the public outcry for tougher laws and better programs, the state recently approved new sanctions for drunk drivers, such as ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders, and created several pilot 24/7 sobriety programs that will include Continuous Alcohol Monitoring. One of the pilot programs will take place in Yakima.

Several other states, including Minnesota and Illinois, have vehicle forfeiture laws for DUI offenders. Do you think these laws are effective in reducing drunk driving? Do you know of other unusual sanctions that are being used or tried to prevent intoxicated driving?

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


  1. I used to live and work in AK where I treated a lot of DUI offenders. One guy lost his $30,000 pickup to a law like this for his third DUI, and when I asked what he had learned he said “Buy a $500 beater to drive when I am drinking.” Another woman lost her car because her boyfriend got his third DUI in her vehicle. She was able to get it back but it cost her trips to court and time off work. At least she dumped him thanks to this law 🙂

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