3/6/2019Honda Sues Over Massachusetts Car ConfiscationHonda files lawsuit to strike down Massachusetts car impounding statute as unconstitutional for its failure to take innocent lienholders into account.
Honda is asking a federal judge to strike down the car confiscation laws in Massachusetts. The Japanese automaker's US car loan and leasing division is being deprived of its property whenever law enforcement officials grab cars that are ultimately owned by Honda Finance Corporation.
"It is beyond debate that the government cannot deprive plaintiff (or anyone) of property by unreasonable seizure and/or without first providing for notice and a hearing," Honda lawyer Michael Lushan wrote. "Yet, that is exactly what occurred here, and exactly what is sanctioned by an outdated, facially unconstitutional Massachusetts state statute, which does not recognize that duly perfected security interest and lien in a vehicle is a constitutionally protected property right."
This particular case was filed over a black 2016 Honda Civic LX CVT that was taken by the city of Revere. Shanasia Hackworth purchased the sedan, worth $19,440, on November 2, 2016, with a loan from the carmaker which still holds a lien on the title. Less than two months after the car drove off the dealership lot, Revere police had it towed away and impounded as part of an investigation.
Even though the police department knew Honda retained an ownership interest in the car, Mario's Towing sold the Civic at auction on May 18, 2017. Honda was never notified, and the vehicle was retitled without Honda's interest being recorded. When Honda reached out to Revere police at the beginning of the year to find out what happened, it received a cryptic departmental computer printout showing a vehicle seizure log accompanied by a faxed, handwritten note.
"I'm sorry, this is all I can give you," the note from Lori read. "We cannot give out police reports."
Honda charged that the town's procedures not only violated due process rights, it essentially stole the vehicle by laundering the title. Honda wants to strike down as unconstitutional the state law authorizing vehicle seizures for its failure to take lienholders into account. It wants its money back, attorneys fees and reasonable damages.
"Honda seeks a declaration that Section 39A is so grossly and flagrantly unconstitutional, in that it fails to recognize that a duly perfected security interest and lien in a vehicle is a constitutionally protected property right, that any person of reasonable prudence would be bound to see this flaw," Lushan wrote.Correction:
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the distribution of proceeds for the sale of the vehicle.