Hawaii: Movement to Restrict Police Seziures of Private Property Gets Boost from Supreme Court

In some cases, the owner is never even charged. In a 2011 incident, a Hawaii woman had her personal vehicle seized after her son was arrested for burglary.

Property owners have little recourse according to Mandy Fernandes, Policy Director for the ACLU of Hawaii. As the name implies, civil asset forfeiture happens in civil court, so owners are not entitled to a public defender.

In Hawaii, if the property fights the seizure and loses they are required to reimburse the state’s legal expenses. The state is not required to do the same if the owner wins in court.

According to Fernandes, the potential expenses of recouping the seized property often exceed its value.