Girlfriend accused of selling pot, government takes boyfriend’s Jeep

By WND Staff

If a citizen does it, it’s grand theft auto.

If a prosecutor does it, it’s just fine, apparently.

But the Goldwater Institute thinks there’s something wrong with prosecutors confiscating an innocent man’s $15,000 Jeep, selling it and keeping the money.

The organization is fighting on behalf of Kevin McBride of Tucson against Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture “scheme.”

The institute posted a video explaining the dispute:

“When the government steals an innocent man’s Jeep and demands $1,900 to return it, you really can’t call it anything but government theft,” said Matt Miller, a senior attorney for the institute.

“That’s what Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture scheme is all about— and the Goldwater Institute is taking action to end the injustice,” he said.

He explained McBride is a handyman who uses his Jeep for his work.

“Back in May, Kevin’s girlfriend stopped by his job site and asked if she could help him cool off by getting him a soda from a local convenience store. Because she had no other way to get there, she took his Jeep and he went back to work,” Miller said.

She didn’t return, and when he got a ride to the store, he found his Jeep being towed by police.

On the scene, a police officer gave McBride a phone number, and three weeks later, he finally was able to get through. He was told the local prosecutor was holding his Jeep as evidence of a $25 crime they said his girlfriend committed, the alleged sale of three grams of marijuana.

Even though charges against the girlfriend were dropped, prosecutors “were keeping the Jeep using civil forfeiture, even though Kevin had done nothing wrong,” Miller said.

McBride was told by the Pima County attorney’s office if he paid $1,900, he could get his vehicle back.

“There was no explanation why. That was just an amount the government had chosen. Kevin could pay it, or he could watch his Jeep be sold—with police keeping the proceeds,” Miller explained.

In the state’s civil forfeiture law, police confiscate property and the owner is forced to prove innocence.

“Despite modest reforms to the state’s laws in 2017, Arizona still has a problem with civil forfeiture abuse,” Miller said. For McBride, he “must hire an attorney (although here Kevin is represented pro bono by the Goldwater Institute), go to court, and prove a negative—that he did not know that his girlfriend was using the Jeep to allegedly sell marijuana.”

But Miller pointed out that the Constitution doesn’t allow the presumption of guilt.

“The burden should be on the government to show that Kevin was involved. Furthermore, let us take a step back for some perspective on what happened here. Kevin’s girlfriend allegedly used the Jeep to sell about $25 worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer. Tucson now claims the right to forfeit Kevin’s Jeep—which is worth about $15,000—and keep the money.”

The institute has informed the government that if prosecutors proceed with the forfeiture, McBride will countersue to have the courts strike the entire state forfeiture process.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently in a case from another state that the confiscation of a vehicle for a minor alleged drug offense is unconstitutional.

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