Michigan Court: Cops Can’t Seize Your Car for Marijuana Possession
Michigan police can no longer seize a person’s vehicle based solely on the discovery of a small amount of weed. A recent report indicates that 26-year-old pizza delivery driver Linda Ross had her car seized by the Westland police force three years ago after an officer found about a gram of marijuana inside.
According to HIGH TIMES:
Although Ross was never charged with a crime, police used the scope of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law to take full possession of her 2007 Ford Focus with no plans to ever return it. In fact, while Ross was in the process of appealing the seizure, the car was sold at auction, and the money went into the pockets of the Westland police force.
Essentially, the cops argued that since Ross had used the vehicle to go out and buy $20 worth of marijuana—a misdemeanor offense under state law—they were justified in taking over permanent possession of the car because it was used in a crime. And, in spite of them never actually charging her for the violation, the asset forfeiture law gives police the right to take ownership of any property they “suspect” is associated with criminal activity.
However, a Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that police were not justified in seizing Ross’ vehicle because the marijuana she had on her was not purchased – it was a tip from a customer.
“Despite Linda’s testimony that she sometimes received marijuana as a tip from various customers, there was no evidence that she expected to receive it on this particular occasion, that this particular customer had given her marijuana before, or that she was motivated to go to the customer’s house by anything other than a delivery call,” read the verdict.
The judges ruled that a previous decision on this matter was wrong.
“According to plaintiff and the trial court’s perspective, the fact that 'the car was used to receive marijuana' because marijuana was placed into it established—on its own—that Linda used the vehicle for the purpose of receiving marijuana," the judges continued. "By that logic, a vehicle would be subject to forfeiture in all cases of mere possession.”
Unfortunately, although this is a victory for Ross and potentially thousands of other stoners caught up in a similar situation, the Westland police department has not be forced to replace her vehicle or compensate her in any way.
Ross will have to file another lawsuit to have a chance at reparations, but there is also a chance the prosecutor in this case will submit an appeal.