Yesterday Gerardo Serrano was reunited along with his 2014 Ford F-250 pickup truck, which was arrested by Customs and Border Safety officers two years in the past in reference to worldwide arms smuggling. The smuggling concerned 5 handgun rounds that Serrano forgot to take away from the truck’s heart console earlier than embarking on a visit to go to his cousin in Mexico. The truck was by no means formally charged with a criminal offense, and neither was Serrano, as is typical in civil forfeiture circumstances. After the Institute for Justice filed a category motion lawsuit on behalf of Serrano and different equally located car house owners final month, I.J. says in a press launch, CBP attorneys abruptly instructed him “he might choose up his truck every time he wished.”
CBP’s capitulation is one more instance of how standing as much as asset-seizing bullies can repay, particularly when you’ve got the Institute for Justice in your nook. However I.J. just isn’t executed with CBP. “The federal government can not illegally seize and hold somebody’s property for 2 years, after which give it again and fake like no hurt was executed,” says I.J. lawyer Robert Everett Johnson. “We’ll proceed to struggle to see that Gerardo is made complete, and to ensure this by no means occurs once more.”
Serrano nonetheless has not been compensated for the prices imposed by the seizure of his truck. He continued to make month-to-month $672 automotive funds although he might now not use the truck, paid $700 a 12 months to insure it and $1,000 to maintain it registered in his house state of Kentucky, and spent hundreds of on rental automobiles. Then there may be the matter of the $three,805 bond (10 % of the truck’s worth) that he needed to pay so he might problem the seizure in courtroom. Serrano by no means bought his day in courtroom, however the authorities nonetheless has his cash. If I.J. had not represented him professional bono, Serrano most likely additionally would have needed to pay a lawyer hundreds of .
The I.J. lawsuit focuses on the dearth of due course of for property house owners like Serrano, who lose the usage of their automobiles for prolonged durations of time whereas their forfeiture circumstances stall. In Serrano’s case, CBP by no means even bought round to submitting a forfeiture criticism. Within the Western District of Texas, I.J. says, the average time between a CBP vehicle seizure and the filing of a forfeiture complant is 150 days.
“No judge would have approved the seizure of Gerardo’s truck,” says I.J. attorney Anya Bidwell. “And that’s precisely why Customs and Border Protection is giving it back. We’re just saying the agency should have to explain themselves to a judge promptly after it first takes the property.”
Serrano is happy about the semi-victory but wants to see more evidence that CBP has seen the error of its car-stealing ways. “I’m thrilled to have my truck back,” Serrano says. “But I’d like somebody to apologize for taking it in the first place.”