Imagine you had your car stolen, but then fortune smiles upon you and the cops find it after the thief used it to smuggle 200 pounds of cocaine across the border, running over 30 children in the process while sexually assaulting the car itself.
You realize you're going to need to get all of its fluids replaced from a mechanic with a soft voice and gentle hands, but you still want it back, because hey, it's your car, right?
Yeeeah, there's some bad news: It has been sold to buy a new espresso machine for the station's break room.
It's called civil asset forfeiture. You probably already have heard of something like this, where the police get to seize the car and house of some drug kingpin and stick the money in the department's budget (that's criminal forfeiture).
But then there's this loophole where the police can seize anything they suspect has been used in a crime, even if it doesn't belong to the criminal, and even if there hasn't been a conviction.
"Let's take the jet. Those bootlegged DVDs from China had to get here somehow."
Then if you, as the actual owner of the goods, try to challenge it, the burden of proof is on you to prove you didn't know it was going to be used in a crime. That's civil forfeiture.
For the police, there is no legal requirement to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that, say, your TV set was once used by a ring of Dutch pedophiles to view kiddie porn. They can simply take it, without ever giving it back, even if they never formally charge anyone for a crime.
You're Shitting Me!
In 2004, Zaher El-Ali, a Jordanian immigrant and U.S. citizen, sold a truck to a man who agreed to pay for it in installments. Before he could finish the payments though, the man was arrested for drunk driving and the truck was seized. Seeing as the car still legally belonged to Zaher (he still had the title), he demanded it back. The police refused, and possibly laughed.