20-28.4. Release of impounded motor vehicles by judge.

(a) Release Upon Conclusion of Trial. - If the driver of a motor vehicle seized pursuant to G.S. 20-28.3:

(1) Is subsequently not convicted of the underlying offense resulting in seizure due to dismissal or a finding of not guilty; or

(2) The judge at a forfeiture hearing conducted pursuant to G.S. 20-28.2(d) finds that the criteria for forfeiture have not otherwise been met; and

(3) The vehicle has not previously been released to a lienholder pursuant to G.S. 20-28.3(e3),

the seized motor vehicle or insurance proceeds held by the clerk of court pursuant to G.S. 20-28.2(c1) or G.S. 20-28.3(h) shall be released to the motor vehicle owner conditioned upon payment of towing and storage costs. The court shall not waive the payment of towing and storage costs. The court shall include in its order notice to the owner of the seized motor vehicle still being held, that within 30 days of the date of the court's order, the owner must make payment of the outstanding towing and storage costs for the motor vehicle and retrieve the motor vehicle, or give notice to Division of Motor Vehicles requesting a judicial hearing on the validity of any mechanics' lien on the motor vehicle for towing and storage costs.

(b) Notwithstanding G.S. 44A-2(d), if the owner of the seized motor vehicle does not obtain release of the vehicle within 30 days from the date of the court's order, the possessor of the seized motor vehicle has a mechanics' lien on the seized motor vehicle for the full amount of the towing and storage charges incurred since the motor vehicle was seized and may dispose of the seized motor vehicle pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 44A of the General Statutes. Notice of the right to a judicial hearing on the validity of the mechanics' lien given to the owner of the motor vehicle in open court in accordance with subsection (a) of this section or delivery to the owner of the vehicle of a copy of the court's order entered in accordance with subsection (a) of this section shall satisfy the notice requirement of G.S. 44A-4(b). (1997-379, s. 1.3; 1998-182, s. 4; 2001-362, s. 8; 2004-128, s. 4; 2013-243, s. 3.)