A 62-year-old local Kentucky resident learned about civil asset forfeiture the hard way in September 2015 when border crossing agents seized his vehicle.
According to press sources, the Kentucky man was on a trip from his home in Tyner, KT, to visit his aunt and relatives in Zaragosa, MX. U.S Customs and Border Protection agents at Eagle Pass, Texas, reportedly witnessed him taking photos of his truck. His troubles began from that point as agents approached him and requested to look at his phone. After he refused to give out his phone password, the agents told him to park the vehicle.
One of the agents unfastened his seatbelt and removed him from the truck before thoroughly searching it, sources say. The agents allegedly found five bullets with no gun in the vehicle. The agents seized the vehicle, justifying the seizure by identifying the bullets as so-called “munitions of war.”
The Kentucky man is reportedly a certified gun owner and has a permit for his weapon, which he decided not to bring along on his trip to Mexico. He had forgotten about the five bullets in his vehicle that the agents discovered, sources indicate.
The agents handcuffed the man and held him for several hours, sources report. They eventually released him, but without his truck, he reportedly had no means of transportation.
The man left the border station on foot and contacted a relative who lived nearby, sources say. He purportedly stayed in the area for several weeks, intending to fight the forfeiture and reclaim his vehicle.
The Kentucky man eventually rented a car and returned home after his efforts failed. He only got his vehicle back after filing a federal lawsuit. It was held for over two years by the border crossing agents. During that time, he still had to make monthly payments on the truck, sources indicate.
The man now wants the U.S. Supreme Court to investigate the matter and hold a hearing to discuss the constitutional fairness of federal agents seizing his property under civil forfeiture law. The Supreme Court has previously taken up the issue of civil forfeiture after vehicles were similarly seized in Chicago in 2009. The justices were to discuss whether government agents must hold a prompt hearing in property seizure cases. However, the court dismissed the case because the seized vehicles were returned by the time the case was argued.
The Biden administration is suggesting the court dismiss the Kentucky man’s case, claiming that there were no discrepancies with the vehicle seizure. The administration also maintains that the man’s claim ended when his vehicle was returned to him. The man’s attorneys insist that the court should address the matter. Otherwise, they argue, state governments will continue to hold seized property for prolonged periods and only return them to shake off a judge’s ruling. “The rampant due process violations associated with modern civil forfeiture warrant review,” said the lawyers in a high-court filing.
Since 2000, the US has obtained around $68 billion in property using civil asset forfeiture. According to The Institute for Justice, that figure “drastically underestimates the forfeiture’s true scope” because not all states provide relevant data.
If you are the victim of a civil forfeiture, then you should immediately consult an attorney. Just because a government agency has seized your lawful property does not mean it gets to keep it. With the right assistance, you can fight for your rights and get your property back.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has law enforcement taken your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and get the assistance of a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.