INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Two court rulings have limited police seizures in the state of Indiana.
U.S. District Chief
Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson partially has halted the seizure of vehicles in
drug cases and related crimes in the state. She said state law violates due
process because it doesn’t allow individuals to challenge a forfeiture
before property is seized.
State law allows
law enforcement to hold a vehicle without taking action for up to 180 days.
If the state does file a forfeiture claim, the vehicle can be held
indefinitely until the case is completed.
was arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement, obstruction of
justice and dealing marijuana. His vehicle was seized in September, and
Washington requested the vehicle be returned in November.
Jeff Cardella, a
professor at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law, filed a
federal class-action lawsuit against the state on behalf of Washington in
“This is an
injustice that I have wanted to change for several years,” Cardella said.
vehicles are an important form of personal property because they’re needed
for transportation and to earn a living. Authorities must now provide a
pre-forfeiture hearing when seizing vehicles suspected of being used in
The state Court of
Appeals has also ruled that an alert from a drug-sniffing dog isn’t enough
evidence to seize cash that may be tied to drug trafficking.
discovered more than $30,000 in cash in two parcels in 2015 after a
drug-sniffing dog alerted to the packages. They siezed the money even though
they didn’t find any controlled substances or records of drug trafficking
connected to packages.
Judge John Baker
said a positive alert from a drug dog isn’t enough to tie the money to
illegal activity because studies show that up to 90 percent of U.S. currency
has drug residue.
“Any of those
individuals could conceivably have possessed and/or used the unidentified
controlled substance, either legally or illegally, with or without an intent
to commit drug trafficking,” Baker said.
The Legislature has
an interim study committee reviewing the state’s forfeiture laws.