ATV drama: Attorney says Detroit police have high hurdles to overcome before destroying confiscated vehicles

Posted at 2:52 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 18:31:57-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — "Multiple four-wheelers and dirt bikes swerving in and out of traffic trying to hit our car," a Warren Police officer told dispatch as they tried to pursue the large group of motorists causing havoc.

Some of the pursuit that took place just over a week ago could be seen on the officer's body cam.

Body Cam | ATV encounter

The pursuit was terminated by Warren Police but Detroit Police said it was the same group of ATV and dirt bike riders that were causing chaos in downtown Detroit about an hour later.

Undercover officers followed the group of about 20 people to a house where Detroit Police would later seize the ATVs and dirt bikes that were parked in the backyard.

Detroit Police Chief James White has made it known that he wants to destroy the ATVs, which are illegal to ride on public streets.

But attorney Amir Makled said city officials first have high legal hurdles to overcome.

"The city would have a number of things that they'd have to prove in order to get to crushing somebody's property," Makled told 7 Action News.

"Before they have the right to crush these vehicles, they have to give the citizens some due process — the right to challenge the allegations made against them; the right to confront the witnesses that are saying that this was done in a reckless way; that these were, in fact, the ATVs that were driven on a date certain; and that they didn't follow the laws and it's become a constant nuisance to the citizens of Detroit or the surrounding areas."

Second Deputy Chief Rudy Harper said Chief White is focused on safety and abating the nuisance.

"Detroit residents are frustrated and concerned for their safety," Harper said. "Not only is the nuisance of ATVs a clear danger to people in our community during the summer months, it is illegal to drive them on our streets. Chief White has asked his executive team to explore using a program similar to New York City, where these illegal vehicles are impounded and then crushed."

Jose "Cocoblox" said one of the impounded ATVs belongs to him and he's been trying to retrieve it from a police impound.

"My bike was taken illegally," Jose said, adding that he's tried multiple times to present ownership documents to retrieve his vehicle.

Jose is from New York and he said he brought his ATV to Michigan for an event in Milan for stunt riders to secure sponsors.

Jose said the ATVs and dirt bikes were parked in the backyard of the house by a tow truck driver who was hired to deliver the vehicles to their respective owners. The tow truck driver stopped at a relatives house for the night to rest, according to Jose who said his ATV could not have been one of the ones seen on any public street around the time it was seized because he was in possession of the only two keys that could start the vehicle.

"I've been getting the runaround," said Jose, who is back in Detroit again trying to recover his ATV. "We've been calling all over for the past week and they telling us, oh we got to wait because they haven't got the paperwork. And we're still waiting."

Makled said the City of Detroit is going to have to prove that each vehicle they've seized and want to destroy was being driven illegally and creating a nuisance.

Police want ATVs seized in bust to be destroyed

"We will always challenge a governmental taking and make sure that they follow all the proper protocols and procedures that they're required to take when taking somebody's property," he said.

"Nuisance abatement laws have a high threshold, they're difficult to prove for municipalities. Oftentimes, the cities will try to settle these cases by way of a payment or a promise not to conduct or use these ATVs in this type of form or fashion anymore. So, it depends on the City of Detroit's policy in this case and what their appetite is for going all the way to trial on a nuisance case like this," said Makled.

"My advice to my clients, generally, is to just follow the laws," he said. "Try not to be in a position where you're going to lose your vehicles as a result of the conduct and your behavior of how these vehicles are being driven."