6/8/2018Tennessee Man Sues After Cops Grab His BMW From Garage
Lawsuit challenges police seizure of a 7-series BMW from the garage of a Tennessee military veteran who had committed no offense.
Drunk drivers or fleeing felons often have their automobiles taken away by police on the side of the road. Lewis C. Cain faced a far different situation in the early morning hours of September 18, 2017. According to a complaint filed Tuesday, his 2009 BMW 750i sedan was taken out of his garage after Mount Juliet, Tennessee police woke him out of his bed.
Plainclothes officers arrived at Cain's door with an arrest warrant for his son, Lance Carlton Cain. Lance Cain answered the door and was taken into custody. While Lewis Cain was still sleeping, the officers invited themselves into the home. Eventually the commotion woke him up.
An officer insisted that Lewis Cain hand over the keys to the BMW. He refused, explaining that he was the car's owner, not his son. The officer took the keys, entered the garage and drove away. He had no warrant authorizing the taking of the property.
Wilson Country General Sessions Court Judge Barry Tatum held a hearing on the seized car on September 19, 2017, but nobody notified Lewis Cain that this was taking place. The Mount Juliet police department supplied paperwork that identified Lance Cain as the BMW's owner, even though the copy of the vehicle registration inside the glovebox identified Lewis Cain as the owner.
"I took an oath to defend our constitution when I served in the military," Lewis Cain said in a statement. "I have the highest respect for law enforcement, but the Fourth Amendment has to mean something. Police officers can't just take people's property for no reason."
As soon as Lewis Cain heard what had happened, he filed a petition to contest the seizure. Administrative Law Judge Mattielyn B. Williams ordered the car returned in January, but it came back with a broken windshield.
The American Civil Liberties Union decided to represent Lewis Cain in a lawsuit against the department for depriving him of due process rights by not providing him notice of the seizure hearing, and of his Fourth Amendment rights by barging into his home without a warrant.
"Defendants acted in bad faith in seizing the Vehicle because they intentionally, dishonestly, and willfully represented to the court that the vehicle was owned by Lance Carlton Cain," ACLU attorney Mandy Strickland Floyd wrote to the court.
The court has scheduled a conference on the case for August 13.