The Law Offices of John Phebus

DUI arrest leads to confiscated car for Arizona student

Last November, as she was driving through a tribal community, an Arizona State University student was pulled over by the tribal police. When asked whether she was carrying drugs or weapons in her car, she admitted to having marijuana. The authorities arrested the girl and charged her with drug possession and DUI.

What followed, the girl says, were months of legal wrangling and thousands of dollars in fees to recover her car, which the tribal authorities had confiscated on the night of her arrest as part of the penalties for her DUI. While recognizing that she should not have been driving under the influence, the girl feels that the penalty exacted by the police was unreasonably harsh.

Her attorney commented that asset forfeiture laws on Indian reservations are different from the laws in other parts of Arizona. Drivers may not realize they are in the jurisdiction of the tribe while driving on a stretch of highway that cuts through the reservation. If stopped with even very small amounts of marijuana on this stretch of highway, drivers can have their assets seized.

Tribal authorities noted that the girl had more than just one joint in her vehicle. They stated that she was carrying more than one variety of the drug as well as drug paraphernalia. They said that officers could smell marijuana once the student opened her car window.

Dealing with the consequences of a DUI is challenging in its own right, without the additional burden of asset forfeiture. The assistance of an attorney experienced in defending those charged with drunk driving and related offenses can help Arizona residents achieve better outcomes.

Source:, "ASU student says Salt River tribal police stole her car," Jason Volentine, Oct. 17, 2014

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