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NYC Seizes Cars in DWI Crackdown

February 22, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A city crackdown on drunken drivers began with the seizure of at least two cars.

New York is the first municipality in the nation to seize the vehicles of motorists arrested on drunken driving charges as a way to reduce the number of deaths on roadways.

Motorists with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent _ the state’s legal limit for driving _ or higher will have their vehicles seized on the spot. While the motorist faces prosecution in criminal court, the vehicle seizure will be part of a separate proceeding in civil court under state forfeiture laws.

And because civil proceedings require only a preponderance of evidence for a verdict _ rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt _ motorists acquitted of drunken driving in criminal court may still lose their cars in civil court.

Civil libertarians have attacked the new policy as excessive and vowed to challenge it in court. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he is confident the plan will hold up in court.

One car was seized Sunday and one today. Officer Theresa Farello, a police department spokeswoman, could not immediately explain why a car was seized Sunday evening, 1 1/2 hours before the program was to start at midnight.

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