Law enforcement types--what happens to car used as murder weapon after trial is over?

Clara Harris just got 20 years in prison for killing her unfaithful husband by running over him three times with her Mercedes-Benz.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/02/14/harris.trial/index.html

So, a bunch of us were wondering, “What happens to the car? It’s a Mercedes, it’s worth money. Does it just remain in permanent impoundment, since it was used as the murder weapon? Does her family get it, if they want it, since it was apparently her car? Does his family get it, if they want it? Do the police put it up for auction at some point in the future? What happens to it?”

I don’t think this is ghoulish, we’re just curious.

One bump, and then I’ll get on with my life.

I’m not sure what the position is in the States, but certainly here cars used in crimes are auctioned off or scrapped, depending on how roadworthy they are.

A friend of mine picked up a nifty motor that had been part of a customs seizure; other than having to get the interior reupholstered, it was mint.

It will be sold to auction. Many cars with less than decent backgrounds are sold to auction. Forinstance, here in Connecticut, some cars from the WTC attrocity were sold to auction and started poping up on used care lots. If they’ll do that, they’ll sell mrs.run-her-husband-over car. For sure.

One important point, they won’t do anything with it until the appeals are over. Generally, in a murder prosecution involving a vehicle, the vehicle is held in evidence until the trial, and all the appeals are done. It is considered evidence, just like guns, knives, and other murder weapons, and so they will hold onto it, at least until the appeals are done.

Ah, thanks, all. :slight_smile:

Am I correct in gathering that Ms. Harris forfeits ownership of the car?

Would the situation be different if she’d stolen her neighbor’s car to run down her husband? Would Mr. Neighbor be SOL?

If she lived in 1600s Southwark, the deodanth (that’s what an item used to commit murder is called) would become the property of the town…

I’m surprised by the assumption that the car will be seized. I don’t think that would happen in Canada.

When evidence is seized here, it’s for the purpose of court proceedings, but that’s not equivalent to an expropriation. The individual who owns the property normally can apply for its return once the court proceedings are over (including appeals, as Hamlet notes). Unless the item is something that it is unlawful to possess (drugs, sawed-off shotgun, counterfeit money), or if it’s an item that has been forfeited as a penalty (which seems to be what ozman is referring to) then the owner has a right to have it returned. If not, wouldn’t it be a taking without compensation, contrary to the Fifth Amendment ("…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.")?

In this case, there’s nothing illegal about owning a Mercedes. I suppose it may depend in whose name it was registered. If it was in the name of the husband, then it presumably is part of his estate and will pass to the heir under his will. If it’s registered in the name of the wife, it’s still her property. As Dogface notes, in the Middle Ages in England the weapon was forfeited as a deodand, but I thought most common law jurisdictions had abolished that principle.

Would you like a little story, DDG?

I was actually going to mention this in another thread, but decided it wasn’t very useful.

When I worked at a Benz dealership, we picked up a used 300E from an independent dealer for next to nothing. Aside from a dyed and overly soft driver’s seat, it was in exceptionally good shape mechanically. But it had a persistent, unusually bad smell which someone tried to mask by dumping a bunch of that new-car smell perfume into it. It reeked.

I personally ran the Benz Vehicle Master Inquiry on the thing and noticed nothing unusual about the car’s history, except that it changed hands several times in the past three months after having one owner its whole life.

My fellow car detailers all knew something was dreadfully wrong with the thing, because even after all of our best efforts, the smell would come back. Even the de-ionizer couldn’t tackle it. But we checked everywhere for the source of the smell and came up with nothing.

Finally, my boss decided to try to contact the original owner to find out what had happened to the car. He quickly learned that the owner had committed suicide–we weren’t told how. The car was put up for auction at Mannheim, Pennsylvania by the executors of the guy’s estate, not the police.

And the soft seat cushion? It was kind of soft and gushy because it was now impregnated with a healthy dose of rancid blood–the guy had shot himself while sitting in his car. That explained some of the barely perceptible stains on the headliner as well.

We never found out who did it, but someone simply cleaned the interior as best as possible and re-dyed the seat without replacing the cushion underneath the leather.

We replaced the seat (which isn’t cheap at all) and went through the cleaning process again, and that helped some, but I remember that the day we unloaded it on yet another independent dealer (no way we were going to sell it to an actual customer) it still had the faintest wisp of the scent of death.

Hope that helps to answer your question, and have a nice day, all!