Truck seized “munitions” and five forgotten bullets

Washington (AP) — Gerald Serrano checked cross-border agents by taking some pictures on his phone. So they took his pickup truck and held it for over two years.

He regained the Ford F-250 only after Serrano filed a federal He wants the supreme court Whenever federal authorities steal someone’s property under civil confiscation law, intervene as a matter of constitutional fairness and demand a prompt court hearing.

The judge can consider his case when he meets personally on Friday.

When a federal, state, or local official steals someone’s property, it’s a corner of the bigger confiscation problem without having to prove that it was used for illegal purposes.

Since 2000, the government has acquired at least $ 68.8 billion in confiscated property. The Legal Training and Research Institute, A libertarian law firm that tracks seizures on behalf of Serrano. The group states that this number “significantly underestimates the true extent of confiscation,” as not all states provide data.

Serrano’s troubles stem from a photo taken during a long journey from his home in Tyner, Kentucky, to his relatives, including his dying aunt, in Zaragoza, Mexico. The photo shoot caught the attention of an agent at the US Customs and Border Protection in Eagle Pass, Texas.

When Serrano refused to give the password to his cell phone, the agent scrutinized the 2014 Silver pickup truck. They justified the attack by saying that five forgotten bullets found “war ammunition” inside, despite the lack of a gun.

Serrano, 62, initially had a licensed gun, but his Mexican cousin warned him not to bring it into Mexico. He threw away his weapon, but forgot some of the bullets the agent finally found.

Former Republican parliamentary candidate Serrano remembered being surprised at his treatment at the border in September 2015.

“I deleted the photo, but I haven’t given you my phone,” Serrano said.

He was told to park the truck, he said, he complained a bit before an agent reached the pickup, opened the door, took off Serrano’s seat belt and pulled him out of the car. ..

“I got the right, I got the constitutional right, and he snaps back to me,’You don’t have the right here. I hear about your right I’m sick and tired of it. “It surprised me,” Serrano said.

He was handcuffed, detained for hours, and refused to unlock the phone or answer questions. Eventually he was told he could go, but his truck wasn’t there.

“I said,’How do you get home?’ I have this unforgettable grin.” We don’t care how you get home, “Serrano said. ..

He was called a relative who walked out of the border station, lived nearby and was hanging out in the area for several weeks hoping to get his pickup truck back. Serrano finally rented a car and went home. He continued to pay $ 673 a month for the seized trucks.

Serrano may receive some support from at least one justice. While a judge in New York’s Court of Appeals, Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion calling for a prompt hearing in New York City when police seized a car. “What we consider constitutionally weak is this intermediate deprivation that lasts months or even years without a quick hearing in front of a neutral fact-finding person,” Sotomayor wrote in 2002. ..

In a case in Chicago in 2009, the Supreme Court raised the question of whether the government had to conduct a reasonably prompt hearing after its former seizure. Insisted.

The Biden administration has asked the court to dismiss the proceedings, saying that the first seizure of the pickup was okay, claiming that Serrano’s allegations had ended when the vehicle was returned to him.

But Serrano’s lawyer argues that the court should tackle the issue. Otherwise, the government will retain the property for a long time and return the property only to avoid the judge’s examination.

“A widespread due process violation related to the review of modern civil confiscation warrants,” they said in a filing with the High Court.

Serrano was able to meet his aunt on a trip in 2015. The cousin drove across the border and took him to her. “When I got home, three days later they called me and said she was dead,” he said.