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In drug cases, the City of New York is entitled to seize an impounded vehicle

In drug cases, the City of New York is entitled to seize an impounded vehicle that has been used in a drug operation. They must, however show that the vehicle that is being seized is not co-owned by someone who is innocent of any wrongdoing. That co-owner must be given an opportunity to demonstrate that his or her ownership of a seized vehicle outweighs the City’s interest in seizing it.

In one particular case, a couple purchased a 2002 Mitsubishi Montero. They purchased the vehicle in March of 2002 and have made monthly payments of $600 drawn on a joint checking account to pay off the vehicle. In December of 2004 when the vehicle was seized, it had a fair market value of $16,000.00.

On October 20, 2004, a confidential informant working with the New York City Police Department called the husband and arranged for him to deliver cocaine to 94th Street and Columbus Avenue in Manhattan. The husband drove the Montero to the meet location and the buyer who was equipped with marked money to buy the drugs went up to the Montero. He purchased $40 worth of cocaine and returned to the undercover officer with the drugs that he had purchased. Marked patrol units a short distance from the scene stopped the husband. The officers recovered four additional bags of cocaine, which were located in the husband’s pants pocket along with the $40 of buy money. He was arrested and charged with criminal sale and possession of cocaine. The New York City Police Department’s Property Clerk put a hold on the Montero and began forfeiture proceedings based on the fact that it was “. . . suspected of having been used as a means of committing crime or employed in aid or furtherance. . .” of the commission of a crime.

A Krimstock hearing is a hearing that is conducted to determine the ability of the City to seize a vehicle legally. The guidelines were established in Krimstock v Kelly, 2005 U.S. Dis LEXIS 43845, *4. An administrative law judge at the City of New York Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings conducts a Krimstock hearing. An interested party must request a Krimstock hearing in a timely manner.

In this case, the husband made a timely request for a Krimstock hearing, which was conducted on December 21, 2004. Both the husband and wife appeared before the hearing judge. The City showed that in the past 15 years ending in 1997, the husband had been arrested ten times and served two prison sentences for drug related crimes. He is claiming that his wife is an innocent co-owner of the vehicle and that it should be returned to her. In testimony at the hearing, the wife stated that she had married her husband in 2002 and that they had purchased the vehicle together. She stated that she knew that her husband had been arrested for drug charges at least once before they were married and she had posted bond for him on at least one occasion of drug charges since the marriage. She stated that she drove the vehicle occasionally, about once a week.

The judge released the vehicle to the wife stating that although the City had established each of the three prongs required by Krimstock, that they did not show that the wife was not an innocent owner. The judge stated that the City had offered no evidence that she knew or should have known that her husband was going to use the Montero to sell drugs. The City appealed. The Supreme Court upheld the finding at the Krimstock hearing and released the Montero to the wife.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its Criminal law Lawyers has convenient offices located throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. Our Drug Crime Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a Drug Crime Lawyer, you could lose precious compensation to pay for your defense.

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