Presumably once you buy a car and drive it off the lot it's your - particularly if you paid for the car in cash. But what if you want to turn around and sell it? What if you bought it for the sole purpose of shipping it overseas?
A car isn't an illegal device. It's not a controlled substance. It's a tool for getting from Point A to Point B -- maybe a bit bigger than the circular saw or the drill, but it's a tool nonetheless.
Yes, states require you to license the car so that they can track you down if something happens to the car or if someone breaks the law while driving your car. States will also tax the hell out of the car when it gets resold - which, when you stop to think about it, makes no sense. The original purchaser paid sales tax based on the purchase price of the car - yet if you sell it to someone else you have to go and give the state their "share" of the bounty.
Up in Dallas, Amanda Ford found out the hard way that, for los federales, a car isn't just another tool. While you could go down to Lowe's and pick up a new power tool and then send it overseas without a problem, don't try it with a new car.
Ms. Ford purchased a new Mercedes SUV with cash. She then drove the car off the lot to a transporter where it was packed into a shipping container and sent it off to China where it would fetch up to three times the price she paid. The car made it as far as New York before it was stopped and Ms. Ford arrested.
The government has accused her of being a "straw" purchaser of the car. But what interest does the government have in deciding who can and cannot own a vehicle? We're not talking about guns where people who can't legally own a firearm use someone else who has no such restrictions to buy the gun for them. We're not talking about using straw purchasers to commit mortgage fraud. We're talking about a transaction for a car.
It seems that only a car manufacturer can ship a brand new car overseas. But what if the car was no longer new? Ms. Ford drove it off the lot and, if you've ever paid attention, the minute that car leaves the lot it's no longer new and it depreciates by about 30%? Do you think the dealership would have refunded the purchase price if she came back and said she changed her mind?
Was there a clause in the purchase agreement that restricted what Ms. Ford could do with the car? Would such a clause, if it existed, even be enforceable?
Besides, is it even the concern of the US government who profits from the sale of a car? The last time I checked, Mercedes-Benz was a company based in Germany (but that makes some SUVs just outside Birmingham, Alabama).
No one was hurt in the transaction. It certainly isn't Ms. Ford's fault that Mercedes can't ship luxury cars to the supposedly communist nation of China. We're all supposed to be a bunch of free marketeers anyway, right? Why should the government impose a near monopoly on who can sell new cars overseas?
Could the car possibly be used by terrorists? Sure, I suppose it could. But our government provides guns, weapons, ammunition, fighters and bombers to nations with a long history of repressing the rights of their citizens as well as meddling in the affairs of other countries. In fact the US has supplied more violently repressive regimes around the world than anyone else - hell, we've even sent military advisors to help teach repressive regimes how to kill people more efficiently.
Where's the harm, Mr. Prosecutor?