Forfeiture in Nassau & Suffolk County
Working with Nassau County and Suffolk County’s Asset Forfeiture Statutes
It is important to note that Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York have unique local statutes that apply to asset forfeiture. These specific regulations can add an additional layer of complexity to forfeiture cases within these jurisdictions. Steven L. Kessler, with his extensive experience in asset forfeiture law, is well-versed in dealing with these distinctive local statutes. By choosing Mr. Kessler as your attorney, you can ensure expert navigation through the nuances of asset forfeiture laws in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties, providing you with the best possible representation to protect your rights and assets.
Understanding Forfeiture in Nassau County
The forfeiture ordinances enacted by the Nassau and Suffolk County legislatures have both received rough treatment in the courts, though at different times and for different reasons. The Nassau law, geared primarily to the seizure of vehicles seized pursuant to a DWI or DUI arrest, though potentially applicable to a much broader range of misdemeanors and violations, was attacked and revised twice before largely assuming its current form in 2004.
As in Suffolk County and the City of New York, the current version of the Nassau forfeiture ordinance eliminates the seizure of vehicles except where there has been a prior DWI or DUI conviction. It also exempts the interests of lienholders from forfeiture. It requires notice to all potentially interested parties of the right to a post-seizure retention hearing at which the County has the burden of proving the necessity for continued retention. There is a hardship release provision for owners who need the vehicle for work, school, or medical reasons where public transportation does not provide a viable alternative and they lack resources to make alternate arrangements. An innocent owner, i.e., one who was not driving the vehicle, is entitled to its release upon payment of a “reasonable” impound fee. Who qualifies as “innocent” under the statute continues to be an area of litigation.
The history of Suffolk County’s forfeiture ordinance was far less fraught than its sister county, and its current version contains similar limitations and protections. In some respects, the Suffolk law is even more protective. For example, the law requires the County to satisfy a “clear and convincing evidence” standard – a higher burden than the usual civil standard of a preponderance of the evidence – when seeking to forfeit property from a defendant not accused of any criminal activity. In that instance, the County must prove that the defendant “engaged in affirmative acts which aided, abetted or facilitated the conduct of the criminal defendant.”
Further revisions have made clear that the Suffolk Law applies only to violations involving the intoxicated operation of a motor vehicle or vessel. Despite these provisions, the County has received negative decisions from the courts regarding its attempt to collect storage fees for vehicles that are found to have been improperly seized and retained. Further, in some cases, it has been determined that the County has not properly applied the burdens imposed by the statute at post-seizure retention hearings.