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US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan accepted the principles of Krimstock and Smith in the federal District. The District of Columbia, unlike much of the country, permits law enforcement to seize people’s cars and hold them indefinitely without a post-seizure hearing to challenge the deprivation of their vehicle pending the conclusion of civil forfeiture proceedings AND makes no allowance for a return of the vehicle pending a final ruling because of hardship-even after the individual has been acquitted of the criminal misconduct allegations that gave rise to the forfeiture.

Which meant that if you were not so fortunate as to be able to do without your car during the years that litigation might take, the District could either extract a settlement from you, cause you to just give up, or bury you in fees (often outpacing the value of the car) and irreparably jeopardize your ability to go to work.

The entire opinion is worth a read. But, at 40 pages, a bit too long to reprint here.

Congratulations to Frederick Smith on getting his car back pending a ruling in the forfeiture proceedings and to attorneys Alec George Karakatsanis, Sandra Kay Levick, and Tara Mikkilineni of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.



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