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Thread: Customs agents seized a lawful gun owner’s truck over five bullets

  1. #1

    Customs agents seized a lawful gun owner’s truck over five bullets

    Customs agents seized a lawful gun owner’s truck over five bullets. Now he’s suing to get it back.
    By Christopher Ingraham - September 13

    On Sept. 21, 2015, Gerardo Serrano was driving from his home in Kentucky to Piedras Negras, Mexico, when his truck was searched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at Texas's Eagle Pass border crossing. After finding a small ammunition clip, the agents took Serrano's truck from him.

    Two years later, Customs hasn't charged Serrano with a crime, and they haven't given his truck back either. Now he's suing over what he calls a violation of his constitutional rights.

    Customs seized the truck under the laws of civil asset forfeiture, which allow authorities to take cash and property from citizens upon suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. Because it happens under civil law, no criminal conviction — or even criminal charge — is necessary for authorities to take property they believe is connected to a crime.
    ...
    Serrano is originally from Chicago but he's lived on a farm in Kentucky for 20 years. A lifelong Republican, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Kentucky's House of Representatives in 2014 on an explicitly pro-Second Amendment platform.
    ...
    In September 2015, Serrano drove his new Ford F-250 pickup from his home in Kentucky to the Mexico border. He was going to visit a cousin he hadn't seen in many years.

    He snapped a few photos with his phone as he drove through the checkpoint, planning to upload them to Facebook, just as he says he had been doing throughout his whole trip, to share the experience with friends and family back home.

    That's when the trouble started. One of Serrano's photos shows two Customs agents looking in his direction, hands held up. According to his lawsuit, the agents objected to his taking photos.

    Those agents waved him over to the side of the road, on the U.S. side of the border, and demanded he hand over his phone.

    Serrano said “no.”

    Customs declined to say whether there's a prohibition on photography at border crossings.
    ...
    According to Serrano's lawsuit, as he tried to explain himself, one of the agents unlocked Serrano's door, unbuckled his seat belt, and yanked him out of the car.

    “I know I didn't do anything wrong,” Serrano told The Post. “So I say 'listen, you can't yank me out like that, I'm an American, you can't do that to me.'”

    The agent took his phone, and demanded Serrano give him the passcode.

    Serrano recalls he told the agent to “go get a warrant.”

    By this time, other agents had started searching his truck. “I said, 'Hey listen I have rights, you're violating my rights, you're not supposed to do that kind of stuff,'” Serrano recounted.

    “I'm sick of hearing about your rights,” the agent said, according to Serrano's lawsuit. “You have no rights here.”

    Eventually, one of the agents searching the truck found an ammunition clip containing five .380-caliber bullets and yelled “we got him!,” according to the lawsuit.
    ...
    At the crossing, the CBP agents put Serrano in handcuffs and continued to ask him to give up the passcode.

    “You go get that warrant,” Serrano says he told them. “I'll wait for you in jail.”

    Serrano didn't believe that any judge would grant a warrant to search a phone for taking pictures at the border. He says he was trying to call what he believed to be the agents' bluff. “A lot of people don't understand basic civil rights,” he said.

    For Serrano, there was also the principle of the whole thing.

    “I ran for office here in Kentucky,” Serrano said. “I ran on principles of the Constitution and my rights. Everyone knows me as a Second Amendment guy. It would be hypocritical of me to talk one way in my home state and then give [CBP] what [they] want. I have to stand by my principles.”

    The agents eventually placed Serrano in a locked cell without food, water or a toilet, Serrano says. Periodically someone would come in and ask for the passcode to his phone, he says. He refused every time.

    Serrano says that after three hours, the agents told him he was free to go, returned his phone and said he wasn't being arrested or charged with any crime. Serrano says he was elated and thought he “wore them out.”

    But then, the agents handed him a document informing him that Customs was taking his truck and the ammunition clip. Those items were “subject of legally becoming the property of the Federal Government (forfeiture),” according to the document, because Serrano had failed to disclose the presence of the clip, making the truck a “conveyance of illegal exportation.”
    ...
    More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...o-get-it-back/
    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
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    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.



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  3. #2
    If I was traveling from Kentucky to Coahuila I would be prepared to give any $#@! more than just five bullets .

  4. #3
    They are fighting for our freedoms.

  5. #4
    Customs and Border Protection is returning a Kentucky man's truck, more than two years after it was seized because Border Patrol officers found five bullets in the truck's center console.

    In September 2015, Customs officers seized the pickup truck belonging to Gerardo Serrano after they found the bullets when he attempted to cross the border into Mexico. The agency [incorrectly] maintained that the bullets were “munitions of war” and that transporting them to Mexico was illegal.

    Serrano says he simply forgot that he left the small ammunition magazine in his truck's center console. Serrano, who holds a concealed carry permit, did not have a gun or any other weapons with him at the time.

    Customs never officially charged Serrano with a crime. They never gave him a day in court to fight the allegations against him. But they held on to his truck anyway, under the controversial practice of [PIRACY aka] civil asset forfeiture, …

    Serrano opted to challenge the seizure, paying a required bond of $4,000 — 10 percent of the truck's value — to do so. [You must post a bond for the property they are already holding in order to contest the seizure – WTH?] But two years after the initial seizure, Customs had still not granted Serrano a hearing. They were still holding on to a truck that he was making loan, registration and insurance payments on.

    Last month, Serrano, represented pro bono by a civil liberties law firm called the Institute for Justice, sued. …

    On Friday, Oct. 13, without offering an explanation, Customs officials contacted Serrano's lawyers and told him that he could go pick up his truck. Accompanied by a lawyer, Serrano drove from Kentucky to Laredo, Tex., this week and picked up the truck …

    “I believe they want me to go away,” Serrano said. “And I'm not going away.” … in cases like this, when faced with a legal challenge government agencies often decide to return seized property rather than try to defend the seizure in court. “The government is using a strategy of giving property back to defeat judicial review,” … “Every time they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar they say 'oh, we didn't really mean it.'” …

    however, Serrano is still seeking compensation for damages incurred from the loss of his truck. “I lost two years of warranty, I kept paying for my [loan] payments, my insurance, my license plate fees,” he said. Customs has also not yet returned the $4,000 bond.

    On top of that, the Institute for Justice is also seeking a class action certification … “the government can't be allowed to evade judicial review because of a calculated strategy of giving back property when they're caught violating the Constitution.” …



    ---

    Rand Paul's Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
    Last edited by AZJoe; 10-20-2017 at 08:31 AM.
    "Let it not be said that we did nothing." - Dr. Ron Paul. "Stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone." - Sophie Magdalena Scholl
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  6. #5
    On top of that, the Institute for Justice is also seeking a class action certification … “the government can't be allowed to evade judicial review because of a calculated strategy of giving back property when they're caught violating the Constitution.” …
    Been a member for years, I highly recommend them.

  7. #6
    Update:

    Surveying the Federal Government's Kafkaesque System of Legalized Larceny, the 5th Circuit Sees No Due Process Problem
    Gerardo Serrano, whose truck was seized over five forgotten handgun rounds, waited two years for a hearing he never actually got.

    Jacob Sullum | 9.17.2020

    When the government uses civil asset forfeiture laws to steal the property of innocent people, it often backs down upon encountering unexpected resistance, as bullies tend to do.
    ...
    After Serrano paid a $3,800 cash bond for the privilege of trying to get his truck back, two years went by without a hearing. Then in October 2017, a month after the Institute for Justice helped him file a lawsuit arguing that the government's forfeiture practices violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process, CBP suddenly decided to return his vehicle, which the government had never officially tried to keep. Serrano continued to pursue his lawsuit, which aimed to qualify as a class action, because he wanted to stop this sort of thing from happening again. A federal judge shot him down two years ago, and yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed that Serrano had failed to state a due process claim.
    ...
    After surveying this confusing, intimidating, infuriating, expensive, and time-consuming process, the Fifth Circuit concluded that nothing was amiss.

    The three-judge panel conceded that "the seizure of a vehicle implicates an important private interest," which weighed in Serrano's favor. But it deemed "the risk of erroneous deprivation of such interest" to be "minimal," because of all "the remedial procedures"—every one of them rigged in the government's favor—that theoretically "permit a claimant to contest the deprivation of his vehicle."

    The third factor that the appeals court considered, guided by the 1976 Supreme Court case Mathews v. Eldridge, was "the Government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail." That factor, the panel concluded, favored the government.

    "We cannot ignore the context of the underlying seizure," the court said. "The Government's interest in preventing the unlawful exportation of munitions, drugs, and other contraband is significant."

    You might think that the relevant "context" in this case was that Serrano lost his truck simply because he forgot about the five handgun rounds he had left in the center console. Although CBP claimed "the truck was used in an attempt to illegally export munitions from the United States, in violation of federal law," it is obvious that Serrano, who never even crossed the border with his "munitions" and offered to leave them behind when he realized his mistake, was not involved in any such activity. Serrano was never charged with violating federal law, and neither was his truck, since the government did not actually file a forfeiture complaint. Given the situation, the 5th Circuit's invocation of the government's interest in preventing international arms smuggling is comical.

    The judges also noted that "a significant administrative burden would be placed on the Government if it was required to provide prompt post-seizure hearings in every vehicle seizure." Due process undeniably imposes a burden on the government; that is the whole point. If the government is worried about that burden, maybe it should stop stealing people's stuff on the slightest pretext.

    The Institute for Justice says it will appeal the 5th Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court. "When the government takes someone's property, the owners should have an opportunity to challenge the seizure in court immediately, not wait days, months, or, as in Gerardo's case, even years," said Institute for Justice attorney Anya Bidwell. "The Supreme Court has already said that there must be a prompt hearing when you're arrested. It also requires pre-seizure hearings for real estate. It makes no sense for the Fifth Circuit to hold that a car is somehow different and you are not entitled to quickly see a judge and contest its seizure."
    ...
    More: https://reason.com/2020/09/17/survey...ocess-problem/
    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
    "Beware the Military-Industrial-Financial-Corporate-Internet-Media-Government Complex." - B4L update of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
    "Debt is the drug, Wall St. Banksters are the dealers, and politicians are the addicts." - B4L
    "Totally free immigration? I've never taken that position. I believe in national sovereignty." - Ron Paul
    They are what they hate.” - B4L


    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.

  8. #7
    In some states if something you own gets stolen, the rightful owner must pay fees to get back their property.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by DiverseSegregation View Post
    In some states if something you own gets stolen, the rightful owner must pay fees to get back their property.
    File an extortion complaint to the agency reporting the same agency.



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  11. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by phill4paul View Post
    File an extortion complaint to the agency reporting the same agency.
    "We investigated ourselves and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Policies and procedures were followed. And just about any court will agree with us."
    "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country, and giving it to the rich people of a poor country." - Ron Paul
    "Beware the Military-Industrial-Financial-Corporate-Internet-Media-Government Complex." - B4L update of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
    "Debt is the drug, Wall St. Banksters are the dealers, and politicians are the addicts." - B4L
    "Totally free immigration? I've never taken that position. I believe in national sovereignty." - Ron Paul
    They are what they hate.” - B4L


    The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent this forum or any other entities or persons.

  12. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian4Liberty View Post
    "We investigated ourselves and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Policies and procedures were followed. And just about any court will agree with us."
    You'se wouldn't want anything happening to your property, would you'se? Dad'd be a shame."

  13. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Anti Federalist View Post
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