A Detroit woman is suing Wayne County, Michigan, after police seized her car for possession of $10 worth of marijuana under the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws.
Crystal Sisson alleges in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday that she was pulled over by Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies this July after they surveilled her going into a Detroit medical marijuana dispensary, where she had bought a small amount of marijuana for $10. After discovering the marijuana, which is decriminalized in Detroit, the sheriff’s deputies cited her for “illegally occupying a place where controlled substances are sold” and seized her 2015 Kia Soul.
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property—cash, cars, and even houses—suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Law enforcement groups say it is a vital tool for disrupting organized drug trafficking and other crimes, but civil liberties groups say it has too few protections for innocent property owners and far too many perverse profit incentives for police and prosecutors.
To get her car back, Sisson had to pay the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office $1,200 to settle the forfeiture case, a typical practice in the county. Sisson’s lawsuit, however, argues that the seizure and settlement was unconstitutionally excessive.