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Ethical Reasoning

Consider the moral ideals presented by the facts, the obligations of the parties to one another and consequences of alternative actions in reaching a determination.

In an effort to reduce crime in their city, the citizens of a town in Michigan passed an ordinance that empowered police to impound and sell at auction motor vehicles used in the commission of certain crimes. The proceeds from these sales buy bulletproof vests for patrol officers.

One of the crimes covered by the ordinance was solicitation of prostitution.

Joe was arrested and convicted of soliciting a prostitute. The car he was driving was impounded.

Joe's wife, who was co-owner of the vehicle, who did not participate in the crime and had no knowledge of it prior to Joe calling her from jail after the fact, sued the county to prevent sale of the vehicle. She claimed she was being "unjustly punished" by having her property sold for a crime in which she did not participate and of which she had no knowledge.

Her lawyer argued that the action of the county represented an unlawful "taking" of private property - something that is expressly forbidden by the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution - as well as the due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

The judge sided with the county and ordered the car sold.


Can someone explain to me how this outcome is ethical?

Solution Preview

Interesting case! Let's take a closer look.

1. Can someone explain to me how this outcome is ethical?

The outcome seems unfair, but it is based on the law or rule regarding co-ownership. When you are a co-owner of a property, in many legal systems, you are in a partnership with that person, which means that you are not only responsible for your decisions in regard to the property, but are also responsible for the actions of the other person with respect to that property, and visa versa.

However, it could be argued that this ...

Solution Summary

Based on the case scenario and using ethical reasoning, this solution explains how the outcome is ethical.