HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Cynthia Brown has never been accused of committing a crime.
“I have a beauty salon," said Brown. "I’ve been in business for 30 years. My husband has worked for Shell Oil for 32 years.”
Brown has a 2006 Hummer H2 that her 32-year-old son Willie Ross was driving back in December of 2012.
“I let him use my vehicle all the time," explained Brown. "That’s no problem, that’s my son."
According to court documents, Brown’s son had driven the H2 to a warehouse on Lee Road which became the scene of a narcotic search warrant.
“They find some marijuana hidden in the ceiling," described Harris County Assistant District Attorney Bill Exley. "They find Mr. Ross and another man in the place, there’s some narcotics recovered.” Prosecutors add that a drug dog took notice of the Hummer vehicle.
“While they didn’t find any contraband in the vehicle, the narcotics dog alerted on the vehicle which is some indication that vehicle had been involved in transporting drugs,” said Exley.
Brown's son was charged with drug possession.
“The case was dismissed and they kept the vehicle,” said Brown. And state law allows that.
Even when criminal charges are dismissed, the district attorney's office can continue forfeiture proceedings in civil court.
“Might not be enough evidence to prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of a particular crime, but we can show that the property is proceeds of the criminal instrument or it’s being used to commit a crime,” said Exley.
“We have a theory that you were doing wrong, so therefore give us your assets," said community activist Quanell X. "Is this America or is this Russia?”
Why has this dragged on for three years?
Prosecutors say they wanted to take care of the criminal cases first and Brown’s son had three co-defendants.
A court hearing is scheduled in late May and a judge or a jury will decide if the district attorney’s office gets to keep the Hummer or give it back to Brown.