Supreme Court Rules Against Women Whose Cars Were Seized by the Police

The Supreme Court on Thursday made it harder for people whose property had been seized by the police to argue for its swift return.

By a 6-to-3 vote, the court ruled against two Alabama women who had sought prompt hearings to recover cars they owned that had been taken by the police in connection with crimes committed by others.

“After a state seizes and seeks civil forfeiture of personal property, due process requires a timely forfeiture hearing but does not require a separate preliminary hearing,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote for the majority.

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the majority had adopted a wooden approach to a pressing problem.

“The majority today holds that due process never requires the minimal check of a retention hearing before a police officer deprives an innocent owner of her car for months or years,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

Even as the court rejected the women’s argument that the Constitution requires streamlined procedures, five justices expressed grave misgivings about the practice of confiscating property said to have been used to commit crimes, known as civil asset forfeiture.

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