California Supreme Court invalidates city ordinances seizing cars used for drug buys or prostitution

The San Jose Mercury Press reports:

A sharply divided state Supreme Court ruled today that cities can no longer seize automobiles whose drivers are arrested for allegedly buying drugs or soliciting prostitutes.

The ruling overturns the laws of more than two dozen cities from Oakland to Los Angeles that allowed police to seize an automobile immediately after the driver’s arrest.

The 4-3 ruling said only state law can mete out punishment for drug and prostitution offenses and that without authorization from the California Legislature, cities can’t pass seizure ordinances that are harsher than state and federal laws. Even drivers suspected of buying a small amount of marijuana, which is a low-level crime punishable by a $100 fine, faced seizures in many of the cities with the ordinances.

You can read the opinion in O’Connell v. Stockton (No. S135160 July 26, 2007) here.

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