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

  1. #1

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

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    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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    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.

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