Police are seizing cars by using civil forfeiture at marijuana dispensaries in Wayne County, Michigan.
Police are seizing cars because their owners visit legal, state-licensed marijuana dispensaries. A lawsuit alleges that Michigan sheriff’s deputies are watching dispensaries for cars to confiscate.
Police are seizing cars because the owners are carrying as little as $10 worth of marijuana, Reason claims. Furthermore, Wayne County, Michigan is demanding car owners pay a $1,200 fine to get their vehicles back.
Police are still seizing cars in Wayne County (Detroit) even though the government has “decriminalized” marijuana there. For example, sheriff’s deputies seized and impounded Crystal Sisson’s car because she was carrying $10 worth of legal marijuana.
Police Are Seizing Cars Because Owners Buy Decriminalized Marijuana
Moreover, “Sisson is charged with illegally occupying a place where controlled substances are sold,” Reason reports. That means Sisson bought the weed at a legal dispensary licensed by Wayne County.
Sisson finds herself stuck in a legal grey area because she bought “medical marijuana.” To elaborate, it is legal to buy cannabis in Michigan but illegal to smoke it.
Now Sisson needs to pay Wayne County $1,200 to get her car back. If Sisson does not pay the fine, she forfeits the car and it becomes county property.
In addition, Sisson’s attorneys assert that Wayne County is violating the eighth amendment’s ban on “excessive fines and unusual punishments.” Sisson‘s attorneys made the allegation in a civil rights lawsuit filed in United States District Court.
Police Are Seizing Cars Because Owners Visit County Licensed Businesses
In fact, Sisson’s attorneys maintain that Wayne County is allowing the dispensaries where its police are seizing cars to operate. As a result, Wayne County is presumably collecting sales taxes on marijuana before apprehending the property of the buyers.
Also, Michigan requires medical marijuana dispensaries to pay fees to law enforcement agencies, Reason states. In particular, Wayne County law enforcement collects around $473,256 a year from fees on dispensaries.
Additionally, Sisson is just one of the hundreds of people whose property is seized because they visit legal, state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. Significantly, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office admits it is conducting surveillance at 32 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The Sheriff’s Office also admits to seizing 467 vehicles in Operation Push Off.
Moreover, Adam Chappell alleges that police seized his car because he bought $15 worth of marijuana at a Detroit dispensary. Astonishingly, police found no marijuana in the car and filed no charges. Nonetheless, deputies still seized his vehicle and impounded it.
Man Waiting Three Years To Get Car Back That Police Seized
Sisson is far from alone because police are seizing cars for offenses like driving without insurance in Wayne County. Other crimes that police are seizing cars for include drag racing, drugs, and prostitution.
For instance, Stephen Nichols has spent three years trying to get his car back from Lincoln Park, Michigan authorities. Police took Nichols’ car because he was driving without insurance.
Unremarkably, Nichols is one of three plaintiffs in another federal civil rights lawsuit against Wayne, Michigan. Nichols is part of the suit because he is still waiting for a court hearing about his seized car. Amazingly, police seized the car back in 2015.
Police are confiscating cars by using civil forfeiture in Wayne County. Under Michigan law, officers can apprehend property while charging no one with a crime simply by filing a civil lawsuit.
“[Nichols] still hasn’t had any hearing,” attorney Shaun Godwin tells Reason. “The law says prosecutors have to bring a case promptly, but it’s just been in limbo for three years.”
Nichols’ suit alleges that Wayne County violates the 14th Amendment by depriving defendants of their right to due process. To clarify, in civil forfeiture, prosecutors bring cases into a civil court where the accused have to pay for their own attorneys. Consequently, poor people often have no protection from forfeiture.
Will The Supreme Court Stop Police From Seizing Cars?
Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court could stop police from seizing cars by declaring civil forfeiture unconstitutional.
Tyson Timbs is currently challenging the seizure of his $42,056 Land Rover that occurred during a drug bust involving $400 worth of heroin. His case, Timbs v. Indiana, is in the Supreme Court now.
However, legal experts do not expect a ruling on Timbs v. Indiana until June 2019. Therefore, the police could keep seizing cars for a long time coming.
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What do you think about police seizing cars for seemingly any reason through civil forfeiture? Let us know in the comments below.
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