'We're going to sell it': Pinellas County sheriff says drivers who run from deputies will forfeit their car

Drivers who try to run from law enforcement in Pinellas County will have their car seized and forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

The Pinellas County sheriff held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to announce a new initiative that will start on Tuesday, June 11.

The sheriff says multiple cars run from deputies every day, and this new initiative will serve as a message to abide by the law.

Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in Florida and Gualtieri says police pursuits are especially dangerous in highly populated areas.

According to the sheriff, there’s been a 40% increase in fatal traffic crashes from police pursuits between 2019 and 2022 nationwide.

READ: Suspect accused of leading Plant City police on chase that ended in deadly multi-vehicle crash arrested

"We don't actively engage in dangerous high-speed pursuits when they do flee because we value life over traffic violations and over property. We do pursue when it's worth the risk, when someone is engaged in a violent crime, they are a threat to the community, or they are engaging in extremely dangerous driving and must be stopped," explained Gualtieri.

Gualtieri says just because deputies are choosing not to pursue some drivers doesn’t mean that people aren’t running from law enforcement at an alarming rate.

"In Pinellas County, multiple cars run from us every day. It's getting more and more frequent, and it's got to stop," said Gualtieri.

According to the sheriff’s office, there have been 1,042 cases where drivers have run from deputies in Pinellas County since January 2022. The number does not include people who have run from officers of the ten other police departments in the county.

The main reason drivers run from officials, according to Gualtieri, is because the driver is drunk, someone has drugs, the driver has a suspended license, or someone has an outstanding warrant.

READ: Accused DUI driver who crashed into Pinellas County ambulance, injuring 3 behind bars

"If you don't stop, and you're wrong, we're going to take your car, and we're going to sell it.  You won't have your car anymore, and you won't have the opportunity to run and endanger others' lives," said Gualtieri.

If the driver gets away, Pinellas deputies will find their car later and sell it. If the car belongs to someone else, Gualtieri says the driver will cause whoever the owner is to potentially lose their car.

"So, if a car flees and the owner is not the driver who fled, the owner will be provided with a written notice that a specific person who was driving their car committed the felony crime of fleeing and eluding in their vehicle. They'll be told that if the same person does it again, then we will seize their car and sell it," explained Gualtieri.

According to the sheriff, the same will apply for rental car companies. 

"These car rental agencies need to be good corporate citizens and help us stop this nonsense of people running from the police in rental cars," he shared.


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