Thanks to controversial civil asset forfeiture laws, police can often permanently seize a suspect’s vehicle if they are caught using it to transport marijuana.
Now that marijuana is becoming increasingly more legal across the United States, more of the population is dropping its guard when it comes to holding weed. But while pot possession will no longer get adults 21 and over into trouble with the law in 11 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is still mostly banned in this country. And people are still going to jail for it.
In fact, some of the latest FBI crime data shows that, in spite of legalization becoming more widespread, well over a half a million people were still arrested for pot possession in 2018. That’s more arrests for this offense than in 2016 and 2017, the data shows. So, yeah, if you think that law enforcement won’t drag you to jail for cannabis in this day and age, you are sadly mistaken.
But more than just being taken into custody and charged with a drug crime, there are more hardships that could potentially scar a person if that bust happens on the road. Thanks to controversial civil asset forfeiture laws, police can often permanently seize a suspect’s vehicle if they are caught using it to transport marijuana. And it doesn’t have to be a large shipment either. People have lost their cars, trucks and other motor vehicles for merely having small amounts.
In Illinois, which just legalized marijuana for recreational use, police are still using this law to collect vehicles to sell at police auctions. A report from Patch shows that cops in Joliet are presently trying to add a 2006 Hyundai Sonata to their pile after catching a couple of people “sitting in the vehicle,” which just so happened to have a little marijuana in the glove compartment.
It seems that 19-year-old Tyree Levy and his uncle, Melvin Wilson, were hanging out in the Hyundai when the police showed up to investigate a burglar alarm. But when police decided to question Levy and Wilson — since they were just sitting there, minding their own business — one of the police officers, “advised that he could smell an odor of cannabis emitting from inside the vehicle,” the report states.
Levy then confessed that there was some marijuana in the car.
During a search, police discovered less than an ounce of marijuana and a little over two grams of cocaine. More than enough for them to take possession of the Hyundai and eventually sell it off to benefit the department.
According to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, since the vehicle “was used or was intended to be used to transport a controlled substance or facilitate the concealment, delivery, possession and transportation of a controlled substance in a felony violation of the Controlled Substances Act,” it is now up for grabs.
The defendants in the case must now attend a forfeiture hearing to make a plea with the judge as to why they should get their car back. But there is a distinct possibility that the vehicle is gone forever. The civil asset forfeiture laws in this country have allowed police to seize cash and personal property for years without having to actually prove someone is guilty of a crime.
Suspicion alone has lined the pockets of the U.S. government and local police forces for years. But the fact that these two were actually caught in possession of illegal drugs (even one that will be legal in Illinois as of January 1) means they will likely lose their vehicle for good. They will find out more when the time comes to make their case in December. Let’s hope the judge is sympathetic.