Court to Parents: No Tough Love, No Cars
A lack of tough love has cost two Washington state parents their cars. Because they didn’t act quickly enough to snatch back their car keys from a son who apparently was using their vehicles to deal drugs, according to authorities, they were properly seized by the government under drug-forfeiture laws
There’s no evidence that Alan and Stephne Roos were themselves involved in any drug activities. But their son Thomas, then 24, was living at home in 2005 and was arrested four times in four months for driving around Snohomish County in cars, including his parents’ two vehicles, that were allegedly loaded with drugs, a drug-sales ledger, cash and cell phones, reports the Seattle Times. Once Stephne Roos bailed her son out after the second arrest, she and her husband should have known they needed to secure the family’s cars from further misuse by their son, according to a ruling this week by the Washington Court of Appeals.
While innocent victims aren’t supposed to be targeted by forfeiture laws, the parents in this case didn’t fall into that category because they had their heads in the sand, the court said in its opinion (PDF). “Accordingly, we hold that the innocent owner exception to the vehicle forfeiture provision may not be invoked by a claimant who either knew, or should have known after reasonable inquiry, of the illegal use of the property.”
In addition to losing their cars, which reportedly have an auction value of perhaps $18,000 total, the couple also has racked up a $34,000 legal bill, says their lawyer, Peter Mazzone of Everett, Wash. The decision this week, which “stretches the bounds of logic” should be appealed, he adds, but he doubts his clients can afford to take the case further.
“It says if you have a son or daughter that you suspect may be involved in drugs, you better start snooping around and following them around,” he says of the decision. “If you let them drive your car, you may very well lose your car.”