Cristal Starling Granted Day In Court To Get $8K Stolen From Her During Police Raid
Cristal Starling, a food cart owner from Rochester, New York, is finally getting her day in court.
In April 2022, it was reported that Starling had $8,040 seized by the police after they suspected her then-boyfriend was dealing drugs. Since being acquitted, Starling has been fighting to get her money back—saved to purchase a food truck. Now, thanks to a federal appeals court, her case is being bought back to life.
The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm representing the business owner, found a loophole against civil asset forfeiture, a ruling that allows law enforcement to seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity without charging the owner with a crime, Reason reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a lower district court made an error when it entered a default judgment against Starling after she missed one of the filing deadlines to challenge the seizure.
The business owner also had two cars seized and returned to her after being forced to use a rental car. But now, Starling will be able to contest the seizure in court. “I’m excited and looking forward to fighting this,” she said, according to a press release. “And I’m happy that I was able to push through and persevere through all these filings, all this paper, and all these court proceedings. Nobody should have to fight this hard just to keep what’s theirs.”
Civil forfeiture is often frowned upon by civil liberties groups, but it is very rare for them to be read in a federal circuit court opinion. “The court recognized what has always been abundantly clear about civil forfeiture: allowing police to pocket the money they take from people who have never been charged with a crime encourages police to take more money from innocent people,” attorney Seth Young said.
The law firm’s President and Chief Counsel, Scott Bullock, thinks it’s time for the system to eliminate civil forfeiture. “Cristal is not alone in having her due process rights stripped by the unjust civil forfeiture process,” Bullock said.
“It’s time to end civil forfeiture nationwide.”