Posts Tagged ‘Due Process Act’

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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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