DETROIT – A Westland man filed a lawsuit claiming officials have held his vehicle for nearly three years after it was seized by a Lincoln Park officer during a traffic stop in July 2015.
The Westland man filed a joint lawsuit with two Detroit men who reported a similar incident in Wayne County.
Wayne County, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, Prosecutor Kym Worth, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the city of Lincoln Park are listed as defendants in the case.
Westland man's car seized in Lincoln Park
On July 2, 2015, Stephen Nichols, of Westland, said he was pulled over by a Lincoln Park police officer. Nichols said the officer seized his vehicle without a warrant and without a pre-deprivation hearing, saying the insurance certificate was invalid.
Nichols was given a form indicating that Lincoln Park intended to forfeit the vehicle under the forfeiture provisions of Michigan's Identity Theft Protection Act, according to the lawsuit. Nichols was told to file a claim of interest with Lincoln Park and pay $250 to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to contest the forfeiture.
Nichols was charged with operating without insurance. He admitted to driving without valid insurance, according to the lawsuit.
On July 10, 2015, Nichols said he filed a claim of interest with Lincoln Park and paid $250 to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to contest the forfeiture. The lawsuit claims Nichols was not given a prompt post-seizure, pre-forfeiture hearing for nearly three years.
"Almost three years has now passed since the seizure without process, and the defendants have not filed a civil forfeiture case against Nichols' vehicle," the lawsuit states.
Nichols' vehicle is still in custody to this day, according to the lawsuit.
Nichols said he hasn't been able to use his vehicle or perform necessary maintenance on it. He said he has to pay for insurance for a vehicle that he can't use and has to pay for rides to get to and from work.
Detroit men say vehicle was damaged after being held for several months
A father and a son joined the lawsuit with Nichols, claiming their vehicle was damaged after being seized and held for more than six months.
Adam Chappell Jr. said he lent a vehicle to his son, Ryan Chappell, for his personal use and to use for his son's welding business.
On July 27, 2016, Ryan Chappell was pulled over by a Wayne County deputy after he was seen visiting a medical marijuana facility in Detroit, the lawsuit said.
The vehicle was seized without a warrant or a hearing and towed from the scene, the lawsuit alleges. Ryan Chappell was given a form indicating that the Wayne County Sheriff's Office intended to forfeit the vehicle. He was told the owner had to file a claim and post a $250 bond with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to contest the forfeiture.
No marijuana was found and no criminal charges were brought against Ryan Chappell, according to court records.
On Aug. 11, Adam Chappell filed a claim and posted the $250 bond with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, the lawsuit states.
On Oct. 7, 2016, 72 days after the vehicle was seized, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office filed a complaint that alleged the vehicle was subject to forfeiture because of a violation of the Michigan Controlled Substances Act.
On Jan. 31, 2017, Adam Chappell filed a motion dismiss after the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office failed to comply with the court order to answer his discovery requests, according to the lawsuit.
The court dismissed the forfeiture complaint on Feb. 10, 2017, and ordered the return of the Chappells' $250 and his vehicle without payment for towing or storage fees.
When Adam Chappell got his vehicle from Martin's Towing on Feb. 23, 2017, he said the driver's side window had been left down, the batter was dead, the tires were flat, the exhaust and transmission systems were damaged and there were marks on the bottom of the vehicle showing it had been lifted by a forklift.
More from the lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have an "unconstitutional practice, custom, policy and pattern of failing to provide prompt post-seizure, pre-forfeiture hearings" for people who have their vehicles seized without a warrant or hearing.
According to the lawsuit, the actions were a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Worth is accused of failing to train and supervise attorneys acting for the defendants to perform their duties to provide for post-seizure, pre-forfeiture hearings.
The two counts listed in the lawsuit are municipal liability for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and declaratory and injunctive relief.