SANTA FE (KRQE) – Santa Fe police are giving people a very real reminder about what can happen to them, or more specifically their cars, if they drive drunk. Police have decked out a nice SUV they seized from a drunk driver and made it their own.
The SUV was clearly someone’s pride and joy.
“These tires are worth $2,500, there are fancy cameras in there, there are all kinds of lights all over it. It was obvious that they took this on a regular basis to go hunting. There’s a scuba on there, a snorkel,” said Santa Fe Police Vehicle Forfeiture Program Coordinator Amanda Katz.
But now it belongs to the Santa Fe Police Department. It was confiscated after its owner was arrested for drunk driving in 2012. He’d already had two DWI convictions.
“We decided that we were going to make it an educational statement,” said Katz.
A statement about the consequences of getting caught drinking and driving in Santa Fe. The car is labeled with statements like “DWI Forfeited Vehicle” and “Was it Worth It”.
Katz said, “People stop, they ask to take pictures.”
Bright yellow and valued at about $50,000, officials say it screams an important message.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you’re still gonna have to deal with the same consequences, if this sort of thing happens,” said Katz.
Santa Fe police can seize cars after a drunk driving arrest when the owner has a prior DWI conviction. In 2015 alone the courts ordered owners to turn over nearly 600 cars. Most of them end up in the police department’s impound lot. Some of them are pretty nice. Most end up auctioned off but department officials say something as pretty as the yellow SUV can serve a much greater purpose.
Many residents say they see no problem with seizing drunk driver’s cars.
“We’ve got to do something to get these people off the road and they’re gonna get back on there anyway. We need harder and strong regulations,” said Phill Westen.
“If it helps keep people safe, it’s great and if it’s a low cost strategy to help keep people safe, great,” said Diane Smogor.
This is the first time Santa Fe Police have tried this tactic, but they say they will definitely consider doing it again, because this SUV is getting so much attention.
These car seizure programs are controversial, with lawsuits arguing they’re punishing people before they’ve been convicted of the crime, to simply make a profit.