[HISTORY: Adopted by the Municipal Council of the Borough of Hawthorne 10-16-1996 by Ord. No. 1653 (Ch. 209 of the 1989 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
As to any vehicle impounded pursuant to the Borough of Hawthorne Code or to state statute, by or at the request of the Borough of Hawthorne, its agents or employees, a person who has a legal entitlement to possession of the vehicle has a right to a post-seizure administrative hearing to determine whether there was a probable cause to impound the vehicle, if such person files a written demand with the Borough Administrator of the Borough of Hawthorne within 10 days after the mailing of the notice of the stored vehicle, whichever occurs first. The notice of stored vehicle shall be sent in the mail to the legal and registered owner and to the garage where the vehicle is stored within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, after impounding and storage of the vehicle.
A hearing shall be conducted before a hearing officer designated by the Borough Administrator within 48 hours of receipt of a written demand therefor from the person seeking the hearing, unless such person waives the right to a speedy hearing. Saturdays, Sundays and state holidays are to be excluded from the calculation of the forty-eight-hour period. The hearing officer shall be someone other than the person who directed the impounding and storage of the vehicle. The sole question before the hearing officer shall be whether there was probable cause to impound the vehicle in question. The phrase "probable cause to impound" shall mean that there was sufficient breach of local, state or federal law to grant legal authority for the removal of the vehicle.
The hearing officer shall conduct the hearing in an informal manner and shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence. The person demanding the hearing shall carry the burden of establishing that such person has the right to possession of the vehicle. The Borough shall carry the burden of establishing that there was probable cause to impound the vehicle in question. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer shall prepare a written decision. A copy of such decision shall be provided to the person demanding the hearing and the registered owner of the vehicle (if not the person requesting the hearing). The hearing officer's decision in no way affects any criminal or motor vehicle charges involved in such proceeding and may only be challenged in the appropriate court. The decision of the hearing officer is final. Failure of the registered or legal owner or his agent to request a hearing within the provisions of this section or to attend a scheduled post-seizure hearing shall be deemed a waiver of the right to such hearing.
The hearing officer shall only determine that, as to the vehicle in issue, either there was probable cause to impound the vehicle or there was no such probable cause. In the event that the hearing officer determines that there was no probable cause, the hearing officer shall prepare and date a certificate of no probable cause, copies of which shall be given to the possessor (owner or other person entitled to possession) of the vehicle and the Borough of Hawthorne. Upon receipt of the possessor's copy of such certificate, the custodian, towing company, or such, of the vehicle shall release the vehicle to its possessor. Upon a finding of no probable cause, towing and storage fees shall be paid by the Borough. If the possessor fails to present such certificate to the person having custody of the vehicle within 24 hours of its receipt, excluding such days when the custodian of the vehicle is not open for business, the possessor shall assume liability for all subsequent storage charges. Such certificate shall advise the possessor of such requirement.