http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/michigan-police-asset-seizure_561e94a7e4b028dd7ea62184

For the last two and half years, Linda Ross has been fighting to get her car back from the cops. Police in Westland, Michigan, seized the pizza delivery woman’s vehicle in April 2013, when they pulled Ross over after a shift and found her in possession of a gram of marijuana.

Shortly after, they tried to take the car for good, claiming Ross had used it in the commission of a crime: buying $20 of weed. That would be justifiable under the state’s laws on civil asset forfeiture…

Last week, a Michigan court of appeals ruled that police were wrong to take the car, overturning a previous decision that had approved its forfeiture. The judges, however, didn’t rule in Ross’ favor because it seems outrageous to seize someone’s car simply because it was used to buy a gram of weed. Instead, they said it was how Ross got the marijuana that made all the difference.

In a 2-1 decision, the majority wrote that because a customer had supposedly given Ross the weed as a tip for a pizza delivery — and that she hadn’t actually driven her car with the intent of purchasing drugs — the vehicle wasn’t subject to forfeiture…

The judges went on to note that simple marijuana possession is not grounds for seizure or forfeiture and that a previous ruling had erred in concluding that the presence of weed in Ross’ car meant she’d used the vehicle for the express purpose of obtaining the drugs…

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller told The Detroit News that her office is currently reviewing its options…

While the recent reforms have been hailed as an important step forward, none of them would explicitly prohibit police from seizing a car from someone they could prove had, in fact, driven to purchase $20 of weed…

“When you take a person’s car or home away, you remove their ability to get to their jobs, care for their children and be productive citizens,” Harris said. “The collateral consequences to these forfeitures are extremely harmful to society — far more harmful in this case than the underlying act committed by the property owner.”

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