perkins coie

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Arizona: ACLU Challenges Asset Forfeiture Laws

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Under Unconstitutional System, Sheriff and County Attorney Take People’s Property and Use Profits for Salaries, Overtime, Retirement Funds, More

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the law firm Perkins Coie on Wednesday filed suit against the sheriff and county attorney of Pinal County, Arizona, for their enforcement of the state's civil asset forfeiture laws.

Law enforcement used this scheme against Rhonda Cox, a county resident, to seize and keep her truck, violating her constitutional rights. After Cox, an innocent owner, filed a claim to get her truck back, the county attorney’s office informed her that if she pursued her claim and lost, not only would she lose her truck, but the state’s forfeiture laws would require her to pay the county’s attorneys’ fees and investigation costs, an amount that would exceed the value of her truck.

Since she couldn’t risk so much financial loss, Cox was forced to abandon her efforts to retrieve her truck.

“Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture laws gave Pinal County license to steal from Rhonda Cox,” said Emma Andersson, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “That would be bad enough, but those laws also made it impossible for her to have a fair shot at challenging that theft in court.

"The county robbed Rhonda twice: first they took her truck, then they took her day in court,” Andersson said.

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