So Much for the Presumption of Innocence

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on January 13th, 2017

We pride ourselves in this country on our Constitution and the protections it gives us from the abuses of Big Government.  Perhaps most prominent of these rights is the "presumption of innocence", and the associated right not to have our freedoms or property taken without due process of law.

Except in drunk driving cases…

As I’ve written ad nauseum in the past, there is clearly a DUI Exception to the Constitution in our criminal justice system — and has been for many years.  See, for example, The Disappearing Right to Jury Trials…in DUI Cases, Another DUI Exception to the Constitution and The DUI Exception Continues

If you need any examples of this, just consider the following news article published online this morning….

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ferrari Confiscation

Suffolk County, NY.  Jan. 13 – The Second Circuit US Court of Appeals upheld the government’s confiscation of James B. Ferrari’s Ferrari in a ruling last week. Officials in Suffolk County, New York had grabbed the 2003 Ferrari Modena coupe, valued at $95,000, after Ferrari was stopped and accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) on May 26, 2009.

A police officer saw the Ferrari allegedly reaching speeds over 100 MPH on South Country Road in Bellport. Ferrari was arrested and his Ferrari confiscated under the state’s drunk driving statute. Ferrari’s attorney argued the Due Process clause of the Constitution required the exotic automobile be returned after his client posted a bond — at least while the charges were being litigated in court. At that point, Ferrari had not be found guilty of any crime.  Ferrari’s attorney insisted that it was the county’s burden to prove the seizure was the only possible remedy to the situation, and a judge and jury both agreed. They ordered the county to pay $95,000 to Ferrari to compensate for the loss of his automobile.

A three-judge appellate panel overturned that judgment in last week’s decision, pointing to Ferrari’s long and sordid history of serious driving offenses, including past DUIs…

"Indeed, if the ultimate forfeiture of a car may validly serve the purpose of preventing this forfeited item of property from being further used as an instrumentality of crime, it is not evident why retention pendente lite [i.e. while litigation is pending] cannot serve, in at least some circumstances, a similar purpose," Judge Debra Ann Livingston wrote for the Second Circuit…

So before the defendant was ever convicted of any crime, his car (not incidentally worth a lot of money to local government authorities) was confiscated by the government.  Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t there a presumption of guilt being applied here?  And isn’t the appellate judge basically saying, "Yes, you are presumed not to have been driving drunk — and we’re going to confiscate your car so that you don’t do it again"?


(Thanks to Joe.)

  • mvrht

    Once the mugshot is taken, and scraped to a mugshot extortion site (and then appears in google searches of the person’s name), the person is already receiving the consequences of ‘guilt’. Have you ever considered an article on this Mr. Taylor? ‘Innocent until proven guilty’, is long gone.

  • DUIBlog

    Actually, I discussed this in a lengthy post (originally a lecture) entitled “The DUI Exception to the Constitution” (mentioned in the post above, with a link)….I recall one of my jury trials many years ago, one which I felt confident that I had won — but lost. I asked three of the jurors afterwards why they convicted my client. One of them responded, “Well, Mr. Taylor, we thought he was probably innocent — but we just felt that you hadn’t proven it beyond a reasonable doubt”.

  • Kelly Jackson

    No one has the right to drink and drive and it would seem appropriate if he had been intoxicated to hold his vehicle until he was sober. Keeping said vehicle or disposing of it is criminal and I doubt seriously they would have done the same had the man been driving a beat up Dotson. Officials flexing their muscles against a rich person….just as ugly as flexing their muscles against the poor. The authorities need to realize they work for us…paid by us (citizens) and need to stop being bullies.

  • Bill the eighth

    I suppose the irony of this juror’s statement was totally lost on him.

  • StillOkie

    For the fifth time this year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will consider a
    lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a bill that the
    Legislature passed during the regular session. Senate Bill 643 created
    several new policies that apply to residents arrested for and charged
    with driving under the influence, including provisions that allow the
    state to punish people who take court-mandated blood alcohol testers off
    of their cars. It allowed residents to take impaired driver
    accountability classes to regain driving privileges. It also allowed law
    enforcement officials to immediately destroy a driver’s license after
    an arrest and punished people who refuse to take blood alcohol level
    tests > .

  • StillOkie

    Hypocrites don’t get it. You punish someone for what ‘they’ have done, not what others have. This pervasive need to be tough on crime stems from the corrupt nature of hypocrites. As it was ‘in the days of Noah’ where peoples minds were constantly thinking evil, hypocrites have an insatiable desire to punish others because they themselves are corrupt. Genesis 6 foretells where our modern day societies are headed.

    When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. Luke 17, Matthew 24

  • Cornczech

    I know this was posted over a year ago….but WOW!!!! I have put a hospital on notice that I plan to go to the local news and the accrediting body for medical facilities because of the way I was treated in their hospital while I was there, (I had a seizure while being violently arrested for SUSPICION” of a DUI in AZ). I will have permanent scars on my legs and wrists from the 4 point shackles I was placed in that rubbed all of the skin off my ankles and wrists because I “hit” a police officer. I yelled, (at the time I was there and being held down by 6 cops while they were taking my blood), that I was innocent until proven guilty. The nurses laughed and told me I “deserved” everything that was happening to me….including the NOT soft cuffs and leather straps that were hold me to the stretcher…….there is NO innocence until proven guilty…..just ask the guy the Mesa police shot to death in the hallway of a hotel last year…..
    GREAT blog, by the way……