[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the City of Paterson 1-27-2004 by Ord. No. 03-099. Amendments noted where applicable.]
A motor vehicle shall be subject to seizure and impoundment whenever a police officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle was used to facilitate the commission of any acts of prostitution, assignation or lewdness in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:34 or any violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:35 as to controlled dangerous substance offenses.
Upon seizure of a motor vehicle involved in the aforementioned offense(s), the Police Department shall:
Provide for the towing and impounding of the vehicle by the City's authorized towing agent; and
Notify in writing the person determined to be the owner of the vehicle and any person who is found in control of the vehicle at the time of the seizure of: the fact of the seizure and impoundment of the vehicle; the right of the individuals receiving notice to a preliminary hearing to be held within five days after receipt of the notice of seizure (Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays excluded); and the right to pay a fee of $1,500 or 10% of the blue book value of the automobile, whichever is greater, to offset the aforesaid costs of the specific law enforcement operation or operations which resulted in the seizure.
The Department notices to be given pursuant to this section shall be provided by hand delivery at the time of the seizure and impoundment of the vehicle to the person in control of the vehicle, or if neither the owner of record nor the person in control of the vehicle at the time of its seizure is available to receive such notice, the notice shall be provided to the owner of record by certified mail, return receipt requested, within 24 hours of the time of the impoundment, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.
This section does not apply and the vehicle is not to be seized or impounded if the vehicle was stolen at the time it was subject to seizure and impoundment. However, the owner of the vehicle or his insurance company shall be responsible for towing and storage fees.
The City shall set a hearing within five days of seizure (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays) before a special hearing officer of the City. At the hearing, the City shall have the burden to show that there is probable cause to believe that the vehicle is subject to impoundment and seizure. The formal rules of evidence shall not apply at this hearing, and circumstantial evidence shall be admissible.
At the hearing related to the seizure of a vehicle involved in violations of these offenses, the Paterson Police Department will provide to the defendant or his representative an estimated fee of the reasonable calculated costs to the law enforcement agency that is conducting this specific police operation in excess of the greater of 10% of the blue book value of the vehicle or $1,500, plus towing and storage costs. This fee is required before the vehicle is released. If, after the hearing, the special hearing officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the motor vehicle is subject to impoundment and continued seizure, he shall order the continued impoundment of the vehicle unless the owner or his agent or authorized representatives pays the City the above fee or posts with the Municipal Court a cash bond in the above estimated amount. If, after the hearing, there is a finding of no probable cause, the vehicle shall be released forthwith to the owner or his agent or authorized representative without the imposition of fees.
Within five days of the date the motor vehicle is seized or impounded, the City shall notify the owner of record by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the date, time and location of a final hearing to be conducted pursuant to this subsection. The owner of record will also be notified of his right to pay the fee of the greater of 10% of the blue book value of the vehicle or $1,500, plus towing and storage costs, in lieu of a final hearing whereupon the auto will be returned.
A final hearing shall be scheduled and held no later than 30 days after the date that the vehicle was seized and impounded. If the owner or agent appears, the City shall have the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the vehicle was used as set forth in § 466-1A above.
If, after a hearing, it is determined that the vehicle was towed and impounded lawfully, the special hearing officer shall enter an order fording the owner of record civilly liable to the City for the fees mentioned above and forfeiture of the vehicle. If, after a hearing, a finding is made that the City did not meet its burden of proof, or that the exception of § 466-1D above, applies, the vehicle shall be released to the owner along with any cash bond posted or any other amounts paid.
If the driver/owner refuses to pay the respective costs referred to above, the City may hold the vehicle until the charges pending against the defendant (driver/owner) are resolved. In the event that the defendant is found not guilty, he or she will have to pay no penalty. If the fee is not paid or the vehicle is not retrieved within 180 days from the determination, the vehicle will be deemed abandoned and may be sold by the City at public auction.
Except as provided otherwise in § 466-3, an impounded vehicle shall be released to its owner of record or to the person who is legally entitled to possess the vehicle upon his payment to the City of the respective fees recited above. If the fees are not paid, no vehicle will be released until all charges have been completely disposed.
The owner of a motor vehicle that has been the subject of a seizure and impoundment pursuant to § 466-1, 466-2 or 466-3, or the City, may appeal the final ruling or decision of the special hearing officer to the New Jersey Superior Court, Passaic County vicinage, within 30 days of the date of the final order being appealed. The City may charge the appellant a reasonable fee for preparation of the record for purposes of making the appeal.