Let’s say a resident of New York drives to Virginia in order to visit relatives and a member of her family uses her car to visit a prostitute one night and ends up getting arrested. The owner has zero knowledge of this illegal activity and is of course never charged with any crime, let alone convicted of one, yet the police still seize the car as part of an asset forfeiture proceeding. That’s the controversial tool allowing law enforcement to take private property suspected of being used to facilitate a crime without first obtaining a criminal conviction against the owner of that property. Shouldn’t the New York-based car owner be permitted to file a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request as part of her efforts to get her property back? Not in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court, observes Damon Root, who reports on the troubling implications of this week’s SCOTUS decision in the case of McBurney v. Young.
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