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Texas Police Made More Than $50 Million in 2017 from Seizing People’s Property. Not Everyone Was Guilty of a Crime.

ILLUSTRATION: Ben Hasson/The Texas Tribune

Law enforcement leaders say civil asset forfeiture is a necessary tool for fighting crime, but several lawmakers see it as a violation of Americans’ civil liberties. Texas legislators are poised to take up the issue once again in 2019.

By Edgar Walters and Jolie McCollough | 7 December 2018

This story is part of a collaborative reporting initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. All stories can be found here: https://taken.pulitzercenter.org/

THE TEXAS TRIBUNE — In February 2016, prosecutors in Houston filed a lawsuit against a truck: State of Texas vs. One 2003 Chevrolet Silverado.

Houston police had seized the vehicle after surveilling its driver, Macario Hernandez, and pulling him over after he left his house. They took the truck to court, hoping to keep it or sell it at auction to fund their operations, claiming the vehicle was known to be involved in the drug trade.

But the truck’s owner, Oralia Rodriguez, was never charged with a crime. She wasn’t at the scene when officers pulled over Hernandez, her son, and found 13.5 grams of marijuana in his pocket. In fact, Rodriguez said she had recently loaned him the car so he could drive his pregnant girlfriend to the doctor. The girlfriend was having difficulty with her pregnancy and was at risk of losing the baby, Rodriguez said. She was desperate not to lose her truck, which had recently had new tires installed among other repairs, which she was still working to pay off. […]

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