County stops DWI vehicle seizures

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — A new law to seize the cars of repeat drunk drivers in Bernalillo County has hit a major roadblock.

After seizing dozens of vehicles since October, the program is now on hold.

County officials were hoping to work closely with the city of Albuquerque on this program, but things have not worked out the way they hoped.

We all know the slogan, "You drink, you drive, you lose," and since October in Bernalillo County you could lose your car if you're caught drinking and driving more than once.

It's a law Albuquerque has had for years. The county thought it would be a good idea to piggyback their program on the city's.

"It seemed like a good idea to try to negotiate with them to create a contract so that they handled our cases," said County Attorney Randy Autio.

That plan fell through when contract negotiations between the two entities stalled at the beginning of the month.  Now the county is trying to figure out costs for its own impound lots, hearing examiners and other fees.

"We couldn't agree because there are a lot of costs to operating it, and we also have a little bit different situation in the county than in the city," said Autio. "So we decided we're going to operate on our own."

It is a move the county wanted to avoid.

"The path to success is sometimes paved with some failures, and there are going to be problems," said County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. "I'm certainly one that's going to be willing to address those problems and make sure that it works right."

Johnson is one of the biggest supporters of the program. He says its success even surprised him.

"This actually outperformed any thought I had," he said. "In my understanding we seized somewhere in the neighborhood of 76 vehicles in three months."

The commissioner has long suspected some drunk drivers avoided city streets and drove county streets to avoid the possibility of losing their cars before the county law took affect. He says he wants it to kick in again soon.

"It's disappointing," Johnson said. "I still believe in the program. I still believe it works, and we will get it straightened out."

The discrepancies could be ironed out in about three weeks, and then the program would pick up again.

Johnson explained the seizure program pays for itself by selling the impounded cars.

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