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When it comes to “legalities,” things can sometimes become upside down. Say you’ve owned a certain 1968 Camaro for years, and the feds seize it because it doesn’t belong to you. Thieves stole it, but you never knew. According to the law, that’s too bad; it’s not yours. And what was once your Camaro goes back to the previous owner. 

But the incident of an Alabama man’s 1968 Camaro seizure got upside down when a local district attorney and sheriff asked a judge to change his ruling. In that ruling, the judge said the Sheriff’s Office had to return the Camaro to the Alabama owner. That’s because the court said the Camaro seizure was through an “extra-judicial action.” 

Why does the stolen Camaro owner think it should be returned?

1968 Chevrolet Camaro in parking lot next to trees
1968 Chevrolet Camaro | Thom Taylor, MotorBiscuit

An extra-judicial action is legalese for an act by police outside the proper legal channels. With the request to reverse the ruling, the Sheriff and DA’s office are challenging the decision to return the stolen car to the Alabama former owner. “In terms of reconsideration, the Defendants assert that the property was not seized by extra-judicial action,” the filing says. “Rather, the vehicle was seized through a lawfully granted search warrant.”

The search warrant meant that deputies had to take the Camaro and return it to the previous owner in Kansas. Thieves took the Camaro in 2003. However, the attorney for the Alabama owner says that only one part of the Camaro is from the stolen car and that the VIN is different between the two cars. What part the attorney is referring to is not in the argument. Also, it is easy enough for thieves to change VINs, though we are not suggesting that is the case here. Additionally, the lawyer says the Camaro seizure was illegal because warrants for stolen property expire after five years. The Alabama owner bought the car in 2016.

Was the Camaro seizure granted legally or illegally?

1968 Chevrolet Camaro front 3/4 view
1968 Chevrolet Camaro | General Motors

You’re not alone if you’re still following along with this nightmare, and it is a bit hard to keep track of everything. According to Fox10, the DA’s office and sheriff are asking the judge to clarify whether the search warrant was “granted illegally.” 

There is yet another issue within this search warrant: stolen, legal/illegal maelstrom. During the investigation into whether it was the stolen Camaro or not, the Alabama owner said he was “not going to turn over the stolen vehicle unless he was paid money for it.” Because the courts made all parties aware of the circumstances, it suggests that seizing the car was necessary. That was because of the Alabama man’s statements to police. 

Would returning it set a bad precedent?

1968 Chevrolet Camaro interior shot
1968 Chevrolet Camaro | Thom Taylor, MotorBiscuit

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Also, the county has concerns that in the future, a valid search warrant won’t be enough to seize property and return it to its rightful owner if the Alabama man gets the Camaro back. So, it is pushing back on the owner’s request to deem this an illegal seizure. It says that the search warrant was proper and that it was not illegal.

You can’t be too careful when buying a used vehicle these days, says Mr. Obvious.