Judge rules civil forfeiture case can proceed, legality of state laws at issue

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

A federal judge has given the go-ahead for a broad-based challenge to Arizona statutes that allow police and prosecutors to profit from items they seize.

In an extensive ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa said there was enough evidence in the lawsuit, filed in 2015, to give attorney Jean-Jaques Cabou and the American Civil Liberties Union a chance to prove that the laws are unconstitutional. They claim the statutes provide an “improper financial motivation” for law enforcement to take cash, homes, cars and other property.

The case itself surrounds the complaint of San Tan Valley resident Rhonda Cox.

She said her rights were violated when Pinal County sheriff’s deputies took her truck and the Pinal County Attorney’s Office sold it based on the activities of her son. And Cox charged that Arizona law erected barriers to her challenging the seizure, including requiring her to pay a filing fee just to get into court.

But Humetewa said the evidence presented so far show this is not a local issue.

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