Posts Tagged ‘civil asset forfeiture’

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Asset forfeiture 101

February 13, 2017

Frankly, it’s a little disappointing that Trump wants to wind back the clock on asset forfeiture. It would be disappointing to hear this from anyone, of course, but it’s worse because Trump has a bully pulpit these days.

Several states have banned the practice in the last year or two and the Institute for Justice has been waging war on it for quite a few years now – with some success. Check out their Policing for Profit page.

In the meanwhile, the folks at Reason are keeping the banner high.

I’m not wishing misfortune on anyone, but maybe if one of Trump’s family members or close friends had been a victim of civil asset forfeiture then he might have a different view of what often comes down to highway robbery.

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It’s about damn time!

May 20, 2016

Let’s hope the congressmens’ bill actually does something about this problem. Something like requiring a conviction before forfeiture would be a good start but it doesn’t look like this bill does that. (I’ve only read Issa’s press release, not the bill itself.)

Rep. Issa, Colleagues Introduce Bill To Rein In Civil Forfeiture Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and 12 of his colleagues introduced legislation to rein in civil forfeiture abuse, signing on as an original cosponsor of the DUE PROCESS Act of 2016. The bill makes several important changes to the nation’s federal civil forfeiture program to help curb recent abuses and prevent Americans from having their property taken away by law enforcement without due process. […]

As a reminder of just how much asset forfeiture has in common with highway robbery, this example is just about perfect. (My emphasis below.)

Arkansas Trooper Steals $20,000, Because Nobody Innocent Carries That Much Cash
Prosecutors tried to drop the forfeiture case, but the judge would not let them.

The story of how cops stole $20,000 from Guillermo Espinoza, a construction worker with no criminal record, is sadly familiar in most respects: In July 2013, while driving through Arkansas on his way to Texas, Espinoza was pulled over by a state trooper who discovered a large amount of cash in the car, which he viewed as inherently suspicious. The money was seized and eventually forfeited based on vague allegations of drug-related activity. But there’s a twist: There was so little evidence of such activity that local prosecutors decided to drop the forfeiture case. The judge would not let them, and last week a state appeals court declined to review that astounding decision because Espinoza had missed a filing deadline.

It’s not clear why Arkansas State Police Sgt. Dennis Overton decided to stop Espinoza, who was traveling with his girlfriend, Priscila Hernandez. The legal justification for pulling Espinoza over was missing from the state’s September 2013 forfeiture complaint, which referred without explanation to “the traffic stop,” and from Circuit Court Judge Chris Williams’ September 2014 order authorizing permanent confiscation of the money, which said only that the stop was “proper.” In his response to the forfeiture complaint, Espinoza argued that the stop was illegal, so it would be nice to know what the rationale for it was. […]

After the stop, Judge Williams said, a “State of Arkansas drug dog was transported to the site in order to conduct a search of the vehicle.” […] But according to Williams, “It is obvious from the tape [of the traffic stop] that the dog did not alert on the vehicle at the scene of the stop.”

Undeterred, Overton asked for permission to search the car, which Espinoza supposedly granted — a pretty suspicious sequence of events. Why bother bringing in a drug dog to justify searching a car if the driver is willing to give his consent? In any case, Williams said, “the dog alerted on a computer bag,” inside which Overton found $19,894 in cash, mostly wrapped in $1,000 bundles. Overton found no contraband, drug paraphernalia, or any other sign of illegal activity. But as far as he was concerned, the cash itself was conclusive evidence that Espinoza was involved in drug trafficking.

“I’ve worked this interstate for the last eight years,” Overton told Espinoza, according to the transcript of the dashcam video, which Williams appended to his order. “Half of my career I’ve spent out here. OK? Nobody — nobody — carries their money like that but one person. OK? People that deal with drugs, and deliver drugs. That’s it. Nobody else. Nobody.” In other words, Overton always treats people who carry large amounts of cash as criminals, which proves that only criminals carry large amounts of cash. […]

Read the whole thing: it’ll make yer blood boil.

I guess the big difference between cops and highwaymen is that cops and judges are more orderly. The cops don’t (generally) approach you with weapons already drawn (I gather). And then when you get to court, you can count on the court minding its p’s & q’s about procedures and deadlines — the justice of the ruling being a minor consideration.

But at least it’s all done in a nice, orderly way.

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Expensive insurance

November 21, 2015

Here’s an interesting post at Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution:

Can this be true?

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals [emphasis added].

That is from Martin Armstrong, via Noah Smith and Michael Hendrix. While private sector robberies are underreported by a considerable amount, this is nonetheless a startling contrast.

This seems to be the source for Cowen’s post.

I have no idea whether this is true. But if it is then police protection is turning into pretty expensive insurance, eh?

Via CoyoteBlog

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Some good news about civil asset forfeiture

July 7, 2015

This is refreshing news.

Civil Forfeiture Now Requires A Criminal Conviction In Montana And New Mexico

Just in time for the Fourth of July, states are declaring their independence from civil forfeiture.

Enabled by civil forfeiture laws, police can seize and keep property without the government ever filing criminal charges. Innocent Americans actually must prove their own innocence in court if they ever hope to regain their property. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies routinely seize property and pad their budgets with forfeiture revenue. Outlets as diverse as The New Yorker and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver have detailed this travesty of justice.

But thankfully, civil forfeiture’s days may soon be numbered. Starting July 1, two major reforms from Montana and New Mexico will go into effect. […]

Via Radley Balko

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A lighter look at civil forfeiture

October 11, 2014

John Oliver takes a cheeky look at civil (asset) forfeiture. You may be surprised by some of the things he mentions.

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