Drug dealer cars and the constitutionality of seized assets

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A notice posted on the windshield of a car. Written in Spanish, it asks whether the vehicle owner knows of a cocaine problem in the area in which they live.

Drug dealer cars can be bought at auction. But is the seizure of such cars in the first place technically legal? (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Karva Javi/Flickr)

It is possible to save a great deal of money when you purchase your vehicle at an auto auction. These auctions may be run by the government, law enforcement or auto liquidators. In the case of government and law enforcement auctions, it is not uncommon to run across auction vehicles that were seized from drug dealers. While such vehicles do not pose a danger to potential drivers, the methods through which such vehicles are obtained have generated no small amount of controversy.

Drug dealer cars aplenty

There are many examples nationwide of law enforcement auctions involving drug dealer cars. Take a recent Butler County Sheriff’s auction in Hamilton, Ohio. Residents were allowed to bid on vehicles formerly owned by known drug dealers, including such classics as a candy apple red 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS, canary yellow 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, black 1970 Chevette SS with racing stripes and a 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup. There was even a 2004 Cadillac Escalade owned by convicted former University of Cincinnati and NBA basketball player Corie Blount, who was sentenced to a year in prison for drug charges.

“We appreciate any help the drug dealers can give us,” said Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

As a convenience to its readership, the Hamilton Journal-News referenced www.govdeals.com, a prime source for locating government and law enforcement car auctions – involving drug dealer cars and other property – nationwide.

Drug dealer car scams aplenty

City Paper notes one particular scam involving drug dealer cars, or more specifically, the drug cash used to buy such cars. After law enforcement seizes the vehicles of convicted drug dealers, some dealerships have been caught attempting to seize the vehicle using a phony lien. According to various sources within law enforcement, this facilitates drug trafficking and money laundering by keeping drug vehicles and money moving through an “underground economy.”

This problem is something that the government cannot prevent completely, according to experts like Maryland Assistant State’s Attorney Rudolph Drayton.

“After a while, it’s like being a doctor,” said Drayton. “You see similar patterns of illness, and it’s just a matter of how the illness was contracted.”

Constitutionality of drug dealer car seizure

Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Blog suggests that seizing drug dealer cars presents a potentially thorny constitutional issue, on both the state and federal levels. In Ozark, Mo., police openly use SUVs seized from drug dealers. They even advertise this fact by reportedly affixing a bumper sticker on the back of the vehicle that reads “This vehicle purchased by a drug dealer.”

[Need a bad credit auto loan?]

Bungalow Bill questions whether this gels with the Eighth Amendment rights of the criminals whose property has been seized. Under both the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri state constitution, excessive bail “shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” While not attempting to justify the actions of drug dealers, Bill does raise the question of whether two wrongs make a right.

“Aren’t these vehicles these government entities proudly proclaim are bought with someone else’s money really purchased through a racket that substitutes the word confiscation for the word theft while possibly violating the Eighth Amendment?” asks Bill. “How is it you turn over all your personal property rights when you commit a crime? Isn’t this a dangerous way to think?”

Hezbollah laundering at Tulsa car dealership

Sources

Ask Men: http://www.askmen.com/cars/car_tips_100/131_car_tip.html

Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom

City Paper

GovDeals: http://www.govdeals.com/

Hamilton Journal-News

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