Civil Asset Forfeiture

The Government Seized This Innocent Man's Car Without Due Process. SCOTUS Won't Hear the Case.

"How can an ordinary person afford to wait years after the government takes their car?"


When Gerardo Serrano stopped in Eagle Pass, Texas, to snap some pictures of the U.S.-Mexico border, he thought the photos would be free. He paid with his vehicle.

In September 2015, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized the brand-new F-250 truck via civil forfeiture, which allows the government to take property from people merely suspected of committing a crime. Serrano's error: After agents pulled him over for the pictures, and after Serrano refused to surrender the password to his phone, they located five loose bullets in his vehicle (without a gun), and deemed them "munitions of war." He was detained for several hours and told to walk home.

For years, the government refused to properly adjudicate the matter. Not only was Serrano never charged with a crime, but CBP never filed a formal forfeiture complaint: It just took Serrano's property and sat on it while his pleas fell on deaf ears. He eventually shelled out $3,800 to challenge the move in federal court, and still heard nothing—until he filed a lawsuit against the agency for violation of due process.

At that point, CBP suddenly came around and returned the property. "The upshot is that Serrano lost his property for two years based on nothing more than a probable cause determination by CBP agents who were clearly irritated by his refusal to provide his iPhone password," wrote Reason's Jacob Sullum last year. "Such delays are built into modern forfeiture procedures, which include an 'administrative' phase during which a property owner can plead for mercy from the same agency that took his stuff and would receive the proceeds from selling it."

On Monday the Supreme Court declined to hear his case. That demurral reinforces the position taken by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals: that the government does not violate someone's due process when they take their property without a hearing. Other circuits have ruled to the contrary.

"When the agents seized my truck, I couldn't believe it was happening to me," said Serrano in a statement. "And now I'm back in the Twilight Zone, thinking this can't be real. How can the courts just ignore this? And how can an ordinary person afford to wait years after the government takes their car?"

Serrano was given several options immediately following the seizure, from doing nothing to paying the vehicle's full market value to get it back. Noticeably absent from the list: a hearing. Given what happened today, that unfortunately won't change anytime soon.

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  1. Too bad they didn’t find munitions of war in his jacket pocket.

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  2. Well, the car was already siezed, wasn’t it? So the case is now moot. Welcome to jurisprudence in the one-party state.

    1. John Robert’s rules of order.

  3. The old within a 100 miles of the border routine. Might as well have a burner phone if you’re there.

  4. That jacket might be a crime, although it would take a very brave person to seize it.

    1. RACIST

    2. Fashionista!

    3. I’m sure we could find someone who thinks every item in your wardrobe is sufficiently hisedous that they wouldn’t dress anyone in it. But that’s true of every wardrobe everywhere.

  5. And people wonder why the government is hated.

  6. Serrano was given several options immediately following the seizure, from doing nothing to paying the vehicle’s full market value to get it back. Noticeably absent from the list:

    According to Eric Holder, that WAS due process.

    1. I’m interested in the ‘pay full market value’ option. Presumably, he can’t put down a payment and finance the rest with CBP, he can’t widthdraw the money without performing what his bank would regard as ‘suspicious activity’ (does CBP take checks?), and throwing a dufflebag full of cash (or a kilo of gold, a wallet with BTC…) at them is practically guaranteed to make things worse rather than better.

      It’s almost like he’s being given the choice between various options of how to GFY.

      1. If he brought the duffel bag full of cash to pay to get his own truck back, they’d seize that too as evidence of some other illicit transaction. Because who but someone doing illegalities carries around a bag with $40,000 cash? Then he’d need a bag of gold to get his bag of cash, and and and . . .

      2. Hire a semi truck and send them $40K in pennies.

        1. Hire a HELICOPTER do deliver $40K in pennies. By the roll. From 500 feet.

    2. CPB is under the Jurisdiction of DHS which has vast authority and little accountability, Holder was Attorney General.

  7. Tyranny.

  8. two more points
    1.the scotus should be required to hear these cases and thats why I’m in favor of enlarging the court but only so that they are divided up to cover more cases
    2. I’d wear a jacket like that

    1. I’d be in favor of enlarging the court to one justice per state and the Governor appoints them to twenty-five year terms.

    2. I’d support forcing them to turn in the black robes for matching jackets like that. The Wise Latina would look even wiser. Kagan would look like a crazy marble. Thomas would look like a character from a 70’s blaxploitation movie. Barrett would be rocking a low-cut version just off the shoulder.

  9. This story needs a link to where we can buy that jacket. That’s amazing

    1. Pendelton makes it. Called the Brownsville Shearling.

  10. Serrano should have said he was a gay man or a transgender woman and the cops and courts may have looked differently upon the whole matter!

    1. The jacket doesn’t speak for itself?

  11. Anyone catch the statement Judge Cahill made in the Chauvin trial, slamming lefty democrat politicians (and particularly that idiot Maxine Waters) for all their inflammatory comments? While he refused to grant the defense’s motion for a mistrial, he said that her stupidity could potentially get a guilty verdict overturned on appeal.

    1. This is tbe 2nd offer of a mistrial. First prosecution tried to introduce new evidence in the rebuttal and now the violence. This judge refused a sequestered jury originally. They have seen the calls for violence. The judge saying they won’t know about maxines comments because he told them to not watch the news is laughable. And now NBC and NYT saying they doxxed the jurors. Just sad.

      1. These people are the scum of the earth.

        1. You’re scum of the earth

          1. You’re the scum that the scum of the earth look down on, redneck sucker.

            1. You’re a douche

      2. I would have fallen out of my chair laughing, if this clown had actually ruled for a mistrial. Talk about a giant set of blue-balls for the media…

        I knew about NYT trying to dox the jurors. NBC got in on the act too, huh?

        Still can’t believe they didn’t sequester the jurors.

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  13. This is exactly what happens in trumps clinger America. The racist president give the border patrol compleate power to harass anyone that looks like a minority! Only during the clingers trumps reign. I’m glad this has stopped

    1. Before jumping on your trump clinger train, you may wish to read the article to note that the seizure occurred in September 2015. The President at the time was none other than Barack Obama.

      Trump took office on January 20, 2017.

      1. Ouch, BURN! Another burn caused by TDS, LOL!!! Reminds me of the kids in cages photo and they attached to Trump from 2014 & were unsurprising silent about afterwards.

      2. Uh oh, facts to a regressive. Not sure Kuckboy can handle this….

      3. Yup government overreach is hardly a one-sided issue.

  14. Maybe a packed court could find the time to do its fucking job.

  15. Do we know the breakdown of the justices who voted to not take the case versus taking the case?

    It’s understandable that the SCOTUS can’t take every case, but Civil Asset Forfeiture is a huge problem and needs to have a ruling by SCOTUS

    1. They might be waiting for a case with better facts. Since the point is supposedly moot, because he got the truck back, they may be looking for someone who still doesn’t have their property. Or they just don’t care, what do I know? Unfortunately, there will be plenty of other cases for them to take on.

      1. Moot is a cop out. Government will just keep giving property back before SCOTUS can rule!

  16. CBP operates under the DHS which has vast powers and little accountability, we were warned about those powers but gave up Freedoms for Security.
    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
    Benjamin Franklin

  17. I’m interested in why the 6th Amendment to a fair and speedy trial is being ignored in this case? The government is becoming too big for it’s britches.

  18. Serrano will not be inviting the justices to any dinner parties, Kennedy Center galas, grand openings, etc. No book deals. No speeches to international audiences. You just don’t matter without the proper credentials in the Swamp. Pay your taxes and keep your mouth shut, and be grateful we don’t take all your stuff right now.

  19. When all participants of a “system” are feeding from the same nose-bag, free from competition — and are allowed (by your neighbors and friends — hopefully not you) to
    • Make the laws,
    • Enforce the laws,
    • Prosecute the laws,
    • Hire the prosecutors,
    • License the “defense” attorneys,
    • Pay the “judges”,
    • Build the jails,
    • Contract jails out to private entities,
    • Employ and pay the wardens,
    • Employ and pay the guards,
    • Employ and pay the parole officers,
    One can’t honestly call it a “justice” system. It’s a system of abject tyranny.

  20. THEY ARE ALL IN CAHOOTS! THEY ARE ALL THE ELITE and we are just their pawns. How on Earth can any judges let this shit stand?!? America sits higher on fancy slogans than morally superior ground.

  21. Looks like an early 2000s F-250 with a 7.3L diesel. A truck in nice shape worth confiscating.

  22. Despite the Hispanic name, I’m guessing he is born and bred a Texan, so obviously he had it coming. Pickup truck, bullets, sense of entitlement in his “private property”, it just reeks of a sense of privilege.

  23. Civil forfeiture laws are criminal. How can they be constitutional? The government is depriving you of your property without due process. They all need to be repealed.

  24. The constitution was created and sold to Americans as a means to protect rights. Only in America were rights used as politically fundamental, as in “all men (people) are created equal (have the same rights)”. No other nation puts rights first and foremost, justification for rebellion by any means necessary against authoritarianism, even overthrow of the govt.
    The constitution defines/creates/endorses the initiation of violence as the means to protect rights. After 230 years using the Federalist’s experimental means, it is obvious the constitution was a silent coup d’etat against rights, the founding American principle.

  25. The 4th Amendment does not require a hearing – it requires a warrant and the standard is ‘reasonableness’ – pretty easy to meet. He sued and got his car back – so there is nothing for the S. Ct. to do in this case.

    1. What about this:

      “For years, the government refused to properly adjudicate the matter. Not only was Serrano never charged with a crime, but CBP never filed a formal forfeiture complaint: It just took Serrano’s property and sat on it while his pleas fell on deaf ears. “

  26. I cannot help but wonder if the fact that it was such a nice, big and new F-250 truck had something to do with it being kept so long. Did one of the guys use it?

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