11/30/2006Illinois: Federal Court Strikes Down Car Seizure Law
Unconstitutional car seizure ordinance could cost Waukegan, Illinois millions in refunds.
A federal judge is expected tomorrow to determine how much compensation the city of Waukegan, Illinois will pay to a family affected by an unconstitutional automobile seizure ordinance. The city ordered police to seize the automobile of any driver not carrying an up-to-date driver's license or insurance card and imposed $800 in fees and fines. U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow on November 16 ruled that because the towing was not related to safety it violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures.
The case began on September 10, 2003 when Larissa Harrington allowed Jeffrey, her son, to drive her car. Jeffrey Harrington was stopped by police who noticed that his license had lapsed just ninety days earlier. Although the younger Harrington called his mother to the scene, police refused to allow her to drive her own vehicle home, even though her papers were all in order.
The seizure program has generated more than $2 million in annual revenue for the city. Further court action could require Waukegan to refund collected fines to thousands who have had their vehicles seized.