Yakima files lawsuit to seize & sell first drug home

Yakima files lawsuit to seize & sell first drug home
YAKIMA, Wash. -- The City of Yakima is in the process of seizing and selling its first drug home after filing a civil lawsuit in superior court.

City prosecutors say a quaint home off 16th Avenue was used to sell drugs and because of that, Yakima has the right to seize it.

"Anything utilized to facilitate drug transactions is subject to forfeiture," said Yakima City Prosecutor Bronson Faul, who heads the Forfeiture Unit.

It's a first for Yakima by itself. In the past, it worked with the county to seize drug homes, which is called real property forfeiture.

"The purpose of the forfeiture unit is to remove the proceeds of drug dealers because behind dealers is money," Faul said.

Police made some drug arrests at the King Street home last year. However prosecutors say the homeowner wasn't doing the selling.

That's not enough for him to keep the home.

"The owner of the house has to have knowledge of what's going on," said Faul.

That's what the city must prove in court.

Yakima filed a civil lawsuit in February following an investigation by the police department's narcotics team last year.

To get all sides, KIMA went to the house but no one answered.

Action News did get a chance to speak with neighbors who live on the block. None of them would speak on camera, but did say off camera they were divided on whether the home should be seized.

So we asked you.

"Do you think the city should be allowed to seize drug homes and sell them?" KIMA asked.

"No, I don't think the city should be in the business of taking homes, drugs or not," said Andrew Martinez, who lives in Yakima.

"I think it's a little extreme," said Alexa Stephanishen. "I definitely don't think they should have that kind of authority over people's personal property."

"A year later and you're still going through the legal process; is the work worth the final, potential result?" KIMA asked.

"In this particular case, yeah, that's part of the initial analysis," said Faul.

Yakima is also testing a program to seize cars from repeat DUI offenders.
In those cases, there must be a conviction.

"If you remove the vehicle then you potentially remove a fatality from the road." Faul said.

Yakima prosecutors say the money made from selling drug homes will pay for legal bills and drug enforcement.

They hope the action at the King Street home will not only send a message but make the neighborhood safer.

Prosecutors say the homeowner has 90 days to respond to the suit.

So far, no claims have been filed in Superior court.

Yakima has not seized any cars from repeat DUI offenders but says there are several people on the radar.