Imagine dropping your car off at the local mechanic because you need to get your engine tuned up.
A few days later you come back to pick up your car, only to find out that it has been impounded by the police.
That’s what happened to one couple in Chicago.
It turned out that one of the mechanics took their car out for a joy ride. He was driving too fast, was pulled over, and arrested for driving without a license.
The police then impounded the vehicle, even though it wasn’t his.
The couple went down to the police station to get their vehicle back, but the police insisted that they pay thousands of dollars, even though they did nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, the police are charging them storage fees to keep the vehicle in the impound parking lot.
The couple managed to scrap together the money to have their vehicle released… only to find out that the police had already sold it at an auction!
This wasn’t an isolated incident either. The City of Chicago does this countless times per year, for offenses as minor as littering and playing loud music.
(Chicago brings in about $28 million per year impounding cars and running up storage fees.)
Now the Institute for Justice is helping the couple lead a class action lawsuit challenging this Civil Asset Forfeiture racket.
They argue the scheme violates due process, by forcing innocent vehicle owners to account for crimes drivers committed. Plus, holding the vehicles ransom until fines are paid is an unconstitutional seizure.
Each year Chicago impounds tens of thousands of cars, imposing harsh penalties and rapidly accruing towing and storage fees on their owners. It is nearly impossible for many Chicagoans to come up with enough money to get their cars back. The system traps even innocent owners in its bureaucratic maze. But a class action lawsuit announced today by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national civil liberties law firm, and three car owners, seeks to bring an end to Chicago’s unconstitutional impound scheme.
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