Police departments used to be forced to sell broken down and abandoned vehicles at auction to supplement their budgets. Not any more. The sale of personal vehicles has gotten so lucrative in one U.S. state, police departments are raking in millions of dollars yearly in what many are decrying as an illegal, or at the very least, unethical government-sponsored theft scheme.
According to St. Paul’s KSTP, which conducted an in-depth investigation, Minnesota cops have confiscated, sold, and profited 10 million dollars worth of cars in just the last three years alone, with many motorists saying the confiscation and sale was illegal. Cops in Minnesota have taken nearly 14,000 vehicles from the citizens.
One of those citizens was Emma Dietrich who reportedly thought she was doing the right thing when she asked a coworker to drive her home as she was too drunk to drive. Her designated driver got caught speeding in Dietrich’s 2013 Chevy Camaro. The designated driver was asked to participate voluntarily in a field sobriety exam, which included a breathalyzer, but he refused.
Dietrich’s car was then stolen by police, some would say, and sold at auction. Dietrich, who had paid off her car already, was forced to buy it back at auction for a price of $4,000, the price the Minnesota Attorney General’s office determined was the price they would sell the vehicle back to her.
I really hate that I had to do a buy-back, but mentally, financially, emotionally, I can't handle this case being in limbo for maybe twomore years,
Simply put. It’s legal theft, according to attorney Chuck Ramsey, who claims the State of Minnesota has no legal grounds for taking motorists’ property and selling it for profit. Some have equated the civil asset forfeiture with “policing for profit” or “adjudicating for profit”. Ramsey understands these terms and says:
Most critically, (the law) provides no assessment whatsoever— let alone a reliable assessment— that the State has the legal authority to permanently take the vehicle of a purportedly innocent owner.
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Ramsey says the police departments’ reckless actions with firearms (which kill 1,000 U.S. citizens per year on average) is mirrored by in the way they confiscate and sell property they alone deem to be theirs. He said:
It seems the policy of most police departments is 'shoot first, ask questions later' — take the vehicle and then figure out if it's proper. And even so, they only have to return it if a judge says so,
Citizens are forced to prove their innocence and rights to property with a judge, costing motorists thousands of dollars to obtain legal representation, a process many may seem to be humiliating, costly, and unwarranted.
Police told Dietrich the onus was on her to ensure her designated driver had a clean driving history and was sober enough to legally drive her vehicle before handing over the keys. She said police told her:
That the right thing to do was to have a complete history of his driving infractions and to also give him a sobriety test. That is what they said I should have done.
Ramsey likened that to one drunk person asking another drunk person to prove they weren’t too drunk to drive.
Unfortunately, even though the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has weighed in against the misuse of civil asset forfeiture schemes of law enforcement, it seems it will take another costly legal challenge taken all the way to SCOTUS before Minnesota will do what many lawmakers in the state have said they must do: stop stealing people’s property and selling it for profit.
Yes, that’s right America. Cops in Minnesota will make up some excuse to pull you over, conduct a field sobriety test designed to make you fail, steal your car, and sell it to the highest bidder without you ever being convicted of a crime. If that’s freedom I’m whistling Dixie.