Civil Forfeiture – Dewonna Goodridge, Kansas Justice InstituteCase Info & Legal Team

Dewonna Goodridge Forfeiture Case

Even though Dewonna Goodridge was not charged with a crime, the government used civil forfeiture laws to take her car. With the help of Kansas Justice Institute, Ms. Goodridge successfully fought back.

In June 2023, the government used civil forfeiture laws to seize Dewonna Goodridge’s car. Ms. Goodridge was never charged with a crime. In fact, Ms. Goodridge wasn’t even in the car when the government took it. Essentially, the government vaguely suggested that Ms. Goodridge’s son had allegedly committed a crime while he was driving the car, and therefore it should be allowed to take her car—even though she hadn’t done anything wrong. Ms. Goodridge teamed up with Kansas Justice Institute, a free public interest law firm that protects property rights statewide, to fight the civil forfeiture case.

Kansas civil forfeiture laws allowed the government to keep Ms. Goodridge’s car without the opportunity for a meaningful hearing. In February 2024, KJI filed legal motions on behalf of Ms. Goodridge arguing the lack of a prompt post-seizure hearing was unconstitutional, as was the stop and search of Ms. Goodridge’s car. After the motions were filed, the government chose to return the car and dismissed the case. KJI argued the case should be dismissed “with prejudice”—meaning the government can’t re-file another forfeiture case against Ms. Goodridge. The court agreed with KJI and dismissed the case with prejudice.

 

“It’s not fair for them to seize my car. Once they do, you’ve got to go to court, hire an attorney and pay fees. What the government expects you to do is give up and walk away. They expect you to give up so they can keep the car. But in my case, I wasn’t wrong. I worked too hard for my property, and I wasn’t going to let them have it. If anyone is in my shoes, don’t give up, keep fighting. Without Kansas Justice Institute, I wouldn’t have my car,” said Ms. Goodridge.

 

Geary County Courthouse

After more than eight months, Ms. Goodridge now has her car back. Because Kansas civil forfeiture laws stack the deck in favor of the government, Ms. Goodridge didn’t have the car from June 2023 until February 2024.

Kansas civil forfeiture laws allow the government to seize property and hold it for months or years on end, oftentimes forcing property owners to expend time and money navigating a complex system that requires them to prove their own innocence. For many property owners, the time and legal fees required to regain their property are simply too much and they give up.

 

“Asset forfeiture is abusive and fundamentally unjust, just as Dewonna’s case highlights. She didn’t do anything wrong, she wasn’t charged with any crime, but the government took her car anyway. That’s not right, and Kansas’ forfeiture laws are to blame. At the same time, we’re happy the government eventually did the right thing and dismissed her case. We just wish they hadn’t seized her car to begin with,” said Sam MacRoberts, KJI litigation director, said.

 

Ms. Goodridge’s victory is a rarity. According to an Americans for Prosperity Foundation analysis of Kansas-specific data, approximately 90% of seized property is never returned to their owners.

Christopher Joseph and Carrie Parker of Joseph, Hollander & Craft joined KJI on this case.

Geary County, Kansas v. One 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe

Date Filed
August 16, 2023
Court
District Court of Geary County
Case Status
Won

Case Timeline

AUG
2023
Government's Notice of Pending Forfeiture
FEB
2024
Motion for Probable Validity Hearing
FEB
2024
Motion to Suppress
FEB
2024
Order and Journal Entry of Voluntary Dismissal
APR
2024
Media Release

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