Rage against the Civil Forfeiture machine

In October, Mr. Armour argued a case before the Supreme Court of BC in Victoria opposing an application by the Director of Civil Forfeiture for an order of detention of his client's vehicle pending the trial for this matter.  The EIPO is a very important stage in the proceedings, because as we all know - "possession is 9/10th of the law".  Thus, one of the reasons the Director is so powerful is because nobody ever fights back - it's easier to 'roll over' and accept 20% value of your seized property than to risk losing the entire amount at Supreme Court and also being on the hook for the Director's costs. 

In this case, earlier in the summer, the police seized a vehicle belonging to Mr. Armour's client based on an IRP impaired driving investigation.  Once that impoundment period expired, the police refused to return the vehicle at all and instead commenced Civil Forfeiture proceedings arguing that the vehicle was an "instrument of unlawful activity" and needed to be forfeited to Her Majesty The Queen.  Mr. Armour argued that the Civil Forfeiture Act is statuorily limited to criminal organizations and enterprises where property is obtained by crime or serious bodily harm to a person is involved.  Here...neither of those things were present.  As such, he argued, the Director was attempting to inch its way beyond the scope of what it could lawfully seize and commence forfeiture proceedings where none should be permitted by law.  In theory, had the Director's position been accepted by the Judge, then it would have opened the door into future cases where the police could easily seize lawfully-owned property on the assumption that it "might" be used illegally in the future.  Most outrageous was the fact that in this case, the owner of the vehicle was not even the person whom the Director had concerns about; rather, it was her husband they were actually concerned about.

One of the reasons the Director is so powerful is because - to date - nearly every decision related to the CFA has been ruled in favour of the Director which has given defence lawyers not much to work with.  Hopefully this case helps other lawyers fight back a bit against an extremely powerful regime.  To that end, the Judge called the Director's case "frivolous" and said "the Director of Civil Forfeiture has taken zealous measures outside the proper bounds of its home statute with the unfortunate effect of depriving a citizen of lawful posession and use of her property."

You can read the judgment here.







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