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1/14/2006
New Zealand Seizes $180,000 Car Over Squealing Tires
New Zealand Police seize a $180,000 Mercedes-Benz without trial by claiming it lost traction.


CLS 55 AMG
Police in New Zealand seized a Mercedes-Benz worth NZD $258,900 (US $180,556) on December 29 after its owner, a prominent local businessman, performed a brief burnout in Te Awamutu. Police kept the luxury sedan for 28 days while its owner, John Rae, faced criminal charges carrying a sentence of three months in prison, a fine of NZD $4500 (US $3138) and a six-month license suspension. He is expected to go on trial February 7.

Rae, the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce chairman and an insurance broker, admits that he lost traction and that he thought he did nothing wrong because he was aware that a police officer was lurking on a side street. Police hunted down his CLS 55 AMG a full forty-five minutes later to take away the sedan, stranding him, his wife and his mother-in-law. He was formally charged with "operating a motor vehicle in a manner that caused it to have a sustained loss of traction."

Rae thought the so-called "boy racer" confiscation laws applied to young drag racers who endangered others on the streets. Now he is upset that the police have exploited the situation by making him an example in the media with sixteen New Zealand newspapers, as well as radio and television, covering the situation.

"I had no idea that the boy racer laws had that far reaching consequences," Rae told TV New Zealand. "I thought it was more for kids doing skids and drag racing at night."

The "Boy Racer Act" took effect in 2003 giving police officers discretionary power to seize on-the-spot any vehicle they claim had a sustained loss of traction -- without trial, warrant or due process. Police will now be on the lookout for this Mercedes because they will able to keep the high-performance Benz permanently upon a second conviction.

The motto on Mercedes-Benz New Zealand's website reads, "CLS 55 AMG: The best way to attract attention? Make yourself scarce."

Source: Boy racer law nets leading businessman (TV New Zealand, 1/11/2006)

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