- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A Pinal County woman has asked a judge to throw out Arizona laws that let authorities keep money from the sale of property believed to have been used in crimes, alleging the statutes are stacked against innocent people and have turned into a funding source for law enforcement agencies.

Rhonda Cox alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the forfeiture laws stymied her efforts to get back her pickup truck that her son was using at the time of his August 2013 arrest.

Cox, who owned the vehicle and loaned it to her son, objects to having to pay a $300 court filing fee to lodge an official protest to the seizure and to facing the possibility of covering the county’s attorney costs if she had lost her bid to get back the truck.

The San Tan Valley resident is asking a federal court to find the laws unconstitutional, saying they create a financial incentive for the offices of Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles and Sheriff Paul Babeu to seize the property.

The sheriff and county attorney’s offices declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.



Jean-Jacques Cabou, one of Cox’s attorneys, said the forfeiture system is being used to supplement law enforcement budgets but faces little oversight.

“They rely on this as a funding source,” Cabou said. “There’s no way to fairly dispute that.”

Cox’s truck was seized when her son was arrested in a parking lot as sheriff’s deputies were investigating the theft of a bed cover and hood for a pickup. The details of his arrest are unclear.

Cox said her attempts to get authorities to return her truck were unsuccessful and they ignored her claim that she didn’t know of any crimes connected with the vehicle.

Without a lawyer, Cox grew frustrated with the process and eventually gave up. The truck she paid $6,000 for was auctioned. The lawsuit says even if Cox had gotten a lawyer and won her claim, the county wouldn’t have to pay for her legal expenses in seeking the truck’s return.

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