City of Albuquerque faces class-action lawsuit over vehicle seizure program
March 27, 2019 06:11 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The City of Albuquerque is facing a class action lawsuit.
The plaintiffs claim the city illegally took their car, kept it for months or years, and then made millions by selling the vehicles.
The lawsuit also claims the city continued the practice after it was ruled unconstitutional.
Matthew Kiscaden was stopped by an Albuquerque police officer and arrested him on suspicion of driving with a revoked driver's license in 2017.
Police seized his car and forced him to keep it on his driveway with a boot for nine months.
“The case was dismissed. I then went home, contacted the city attorney and asked him to please come to my home and remove the boot and refund the money,” Kiscaden said. “The city attorney at that time said, ‘No, this is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, we are not going to remove the boot or refund the money.’”
Kiscaden eventually the city nearly $3,000 in fees to remove the boot.
He is one of thousands of people who share a similar story.
The class action lawsuit alleges, between 2009 and 2016, the city generated $11.8 million in revenue by seizing vehicles, tacking on enormous fees and, in many cases, selling the cars at auction.
“The motivation wasn't to seek justice, the motivation was to raise money in order to fund a program that was inherently unconstitutional,” said attorney Shannon Kennedy, who is representing the class.
Kennedy also alleges that some vehicles were nearly worthless after the city returned them.
The city left a convertible on an impound lot for 19 months, with the top down. When its rightful owner got the car back, weather had ruined the interior.
For Kiscaden, and many others like him, grapple with the fact that they were punished without a conviction, and forced to give up their car and then pay thousands to get it back.
“It was very detrimental. I worked out in Rio Rancho at the time. The stress one has to go through and the anxiety one has to go though, it’s almost a total life change,” Kiscaden said. “My life was thrown upside down.”
The lawsuit points out that in 2015, the state legislature abolished civil forfeitures. In 2018, a federal court ruled that city was unconstitutionally seizing vehicles. Also in 2018, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled the city was violating the law by seizing cars.
However, the suit claims throughout that time, the city continued sezing vehicles.
KOB 4 reached out to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller's Office. A spokesperson said Mayor Keller stopped the program. City officials would not comment on the lawsuit because they said they hasn't seen it yet.
Updated: March 27, 2019 06:11 PM
Created: March 27, 2019 05:06 PM
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