Driving with bullets apparently is now a crime in America. That’s what one U.S. citizen discovered.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized Gerardo Serrano’s truck and kept it for two years because he had five rounds in his center console.
The truck was stopped by CBP at a border crossing in Eagle Pass, Texas, because Serrano was taking pictures of the border crossing to share with his family, the Institute for Justice alleges. That caused agents to search his truck.
When they found five low-caliber bullets, the agents alleged Serrano with transporting “munitions of war” and instituted civil forfeiture proceedings against him. That enabled them to take the Ford F-250 without even charging Serrano with a crime. He had to rent a car to get home to Kentucky.
Detained for Taking Pictures
“Gerardo was never convicted of a crime, let alone charged with one,” the Institute alleges. “Indeed, forgetting a few bullets in your car is not a crime. For taking pictures, Gerardo’s truck was seized under a law designed to punish international arms smugglers, not innocent Americans visiting family in Mexico.”
The Institute added, “No court has ever approved the seizure of Gerardo’s truck, and Gerardo has never had an opportunity to argue that he should get the truck back.”
To get the truck back, the Institute had to sue the CPB on Serrano’s behalf. Finally, it was returned in late October.
“The government cannot illegally seize and keep someone’s property for two years, and then give it back and pretend like no harm was done,” said Institute attorney Robert Everett Johnson. “We will continue to fight to see that Gerardo is made whole, and to make sure this never happens again.”
Under civil forfeiture law, prosecutors sue a piece of property in civil court instead of filing criminal charges. That enables them to take property, or money without filing charges or going to criminal court.
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