It’s very strange. “No just system would allow law enforcement to keep property for years without some kind of hearing before a judge.”, I'm a writer and legislative analyst at the Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm. “They do charge the cab with a civil crime, and I don’t know how it defends itself. . . Expired registration? “They have the discretion or the unbridled ability or power to do as they please. Determined to vindicate his rights, Gerardo joined with the Institute for Justice and filed a class-action lawsuit against the CBP on behalf of other car owners. We don’t want to seize cabs, but we will if the smuggling is going to continue,” he said. Gerardo has a concealed-carry permit from Kentucky, which has reciprocity for Texas and the other states he drove through on his trip. When he reached the border crossing in Eagle Pass, Texas, Gerardo decided to snap some pictures with his iPhone to post on Facebook. “Civil forfeiture laws are inherently abusive and this case proves it,” noted Institute for Justice Attorney Robert Everett Johnson. Based solely on those bullets and magazine, the CBP seized the vehicle. Cloudflare Ray ID: 5f89da0c4ab93325 They said the Border Patrol is asking drivers to screen passengers to make sure they are in the country legally, thereby forcing them to discriminate against Latinos. Two taxis were returned to Yellow Cab Co., two cases are being taken to civil court, and the rest are under investigation. Nine days earlier, about 1 a.m. on a Saturday, the Border Patrol had seized another Red Cab that also was carrying illegal aliens, said Hedrick. . The Border Patrol often seizes cars suspected of being used to transport illegal aliens, even when the government does not prosecute the driver or try to prove the owner has committed a crime. But Gerardo is a lawful gun owner, not a weapons smuggler. The process of getting back your property can be a harrowing one fraught with bureaucratic delays. At just four border crossings in Texas, CBP agents seized 525 vehicles from American citizens and lawful residents in 2015. My columns at Forbes.com have been cited by several law review journals, the Center for American Progress, the Heritage Foundation, The Economist, SCOTUSblog and the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. The owner may go to the Border Patrol office for an interview to seek its return and then may either petition in writing for the return, or pay a bond and take the case to a federal court. The fact that illegals in a car are being transported is an offense that the vehicle committed. Hedrick’s story is not unusual. SALTON CITY, Calif. – El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents arrested two people suspected of smuggling drugs inside the back seat of a vehicle early Tuesday morning. Recognizing this hardship, Congress banned bond requirements for non-customs seizures back in 2000, while similar laws remain on the books in only four states. Seized vehicles that turn out to be stolen are turned over to local police or sheriff's departments so they can find the owner and pursue charges in the vehicle theft case. The seizure is treated administratively or, if requested, in civil court, where the government must prove that there is probable cause that the car was used to commit a crime. Early on a Monday morning in January, a Red Cab taxi pulled up to a 7-Eleven in San Ysidro, picked up a fare and drove off. Inside, they found five 0.380 caliber bullets and a SIG Sauer magazine of the same caliber. Hilton said that criminal charges were not filed against two of his other drivers whose cabs were seized, and he was uncertain about the fourth. During his ordeal, when Gerardo protested how his rights were being violated, one agent bluntly responded that he was “sick of hearing about your rights…you have no rights here.”. You may opt-out by. He said that while 15 cabs have been seized in six months, more than 2,000 illegal aliens have been pulled out of cabs and most of the time the drivers and cars are released. They could seize the plane, but there would be a big hullabaloo if they did that. “When the agents told me they were seizing my truck, I said ‘No, you’re not seizing my truck, you’re stealing my truck!’” Gerardo recalled. Almost two years ago, Gerardo was driving down to meet his cousin, who lives right across the border in Piedra Nagras, Mexico. Unfortunately, his legal nightmare was just beginning. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. Cab company representatives and Border Patrol officials met once again Tuesday to discuss the seizure problem, but came to no formal agreement, Smithburg said. Criminal defense attorney Philip De Massa says car owners often find themselves in the same position as Hedrick. Researchers have created an interactive map that estimates the risk you’ll face in any county. Photographer: David Maung/Bloomberg, EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change, Michigan Economic Development Corporation BrandVoice. Like in the Krimstock case, the Indiana court ruled that government must provide a prompt hearing to protect the right to due process: “Allowing for the seizure and retention of vehicles, without providing an opportunity for an individual to challenge the pre-forfeiture deprivation [is] unconstitutional.”. Supposedly the border patrol said my car would be auctioned and I would still have to pay off my loan. Edwards said the U.S. attorney’s office handles about 200 forfeiture cases at any one time. Mexico. Last year, the U.S. attorney prosecuted 5,350 people on smuggling-related charges. New L.A. County ‘Safer at Home’ restrictions revealed as COVID-19 surge worsens. In Krimstock v. Kelly, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a New York City law that allowed the government to detain cars for up to 25 days before they had to file a forfeiture complaint to begin the case. “I have to tell a client when it will cost him more than the car is worth to get it back in court,” De Massa said. During his interrogation by the CBP, Gerardo even offered to surrender the bullets and magazine, but agents refused. But this scene, straight from an authoritarian nightmare, didn’t play out in Syria or Venezuela. If it is a cheap car, (the Border Patrol) may go ahead and let it go if they don’t want to pay storage fees. A victory in Gerardo’s case would mean restoring due-process rights for hundreds, if not thousands, of other car owners nationwide. It felt like they were thugs with badges.”. As a member of IJ’s Communications team, I regularly write opeds and. Adding insult to injury, over the past two years, Gerardo still had to repay his car loan ($673 a month), spend over $1,400 to keep his car insured and pay $1,000 to maintain its registration in Kentucky, all for a truck he cannot drive.