August 27, 2020
After Tucson handyman Kevin McBride’s girlfriend took his Jeep to the convenience store to buy him a soda, she was arrested for selling an undercover police officer $25 worth of marijuana—and McBride’s Jeep was confiscated by the police. While the charges were later dropped, police continued to hold onto the car, offering to release it only if McBride paid the government $1,900. Mind you, McBride himself had not been charged with any crime—let alone convicted of one—yet his property was seized and headed for the auction block.
That is, until today. After initially telling McBride that returning his Jeep to him would be “inappropriate in this case,” the government changed its tune after the Goldwater Institute got involved. After Goldwater challenged the seizure, McBride got his Jeep back from the government today—without having to pay to release it from forfeiture.
“It should be obvious: Government shouldn’t be able to steal private property from law-abiding citizens. Fortunately, government theft has been dealt a major blow today,” Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Matt Miller said. “Today’s news that Kevin has been reunited with his Jeep is extremely welcome—and it’s a tacit admission by the government that its actions here were unfair and illogical.”
Sadly, situations like McBride’s are common in states across the country, thanks to civil asset forfeiture laws. Under such laws, the government can take and keep your property without charging or convicting you of a crime. All they need to do is allege you committed a crime, and then the burden falls on you to hire a lawyer and go to court in an effort to prove otherwise. Even though forfeiture was meant to be used to target the property of major criminals—like drug kingpins—these days, it’s predominantly used against the little guy, even when he hasn’t done anything wrong.
While McBride’s predicament has a happy outcome, more must be done to ensure that this kind of government theft doesn’t happen again. “Kevin isn’t the only person who’s been targeted by civil asset forfeiture schemes—and unfortunately, he probably won’t be the last,” Miller said. “The Goldwater Institute will continue to put pressure on states to reform or repeal these unfair laws—whether through legal action or through state legislatures amending these laws to require a criminal conviction.”
You can read more about how government is stealing private property—and what can be done to put an end to such schemes—at https://goldwaterinstitute.org/stopcivilforfeiture/.