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Asset Forfeiture

One of the things I find that absolutely stuns people when I give talks about drug policy reform is the totally corrupt system of civil asset forfeiture in this country, that allows the seizure of assets (from cash to cars to homes) without charging the owner with a crime and with the proceeds kept by the law enforcement agency seizing the property.

We need to continue to educate people about this corrupt practice that not only makes a mockery out of our justice system, but provides a profit incentive for law enforcement to lobby in favor of continued drug war.

Here are a couple recent articles on the subject.

From October in American Thinker (thanks, Richard): Asset Forfeiture and Perverse Incentives

Several reforms are badly need to reduce the problem. First, salaries and bonuses of public servants should be disconnected from asset seizures. This measure would remove some of the brazen incentivize for prosecutors and police to engage in questionable tactics.

Second, people facing asset seizures should be given additional legal rights. Those facing forfeiture should have the right to state legal representation. Property seizure should be an option only when the owner is convicted of a crime. Law-abiding property owners shouldn’t have to look over their shoulders, in fear that opportunistic prosecutors or police departments have them in their sights.

Yesterday in the New York Times: Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize

“At the grass-roots level — cities, counties — they continue to be interested, perhaps increasingly so, in supplementing their budgets by engaging in the type of seizures that we’ve seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere,” said Lee McGrath, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that has mounted a legal and public relations assault on civil forfeiture.

Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety.

In the sessions, officials share tips on maximizing profits, defeating the objections of so-called “innocent owners” who were not present when the suspected offense occurred, and keeping the proceeds in the hands of law enforcement and out of general fund budgets.

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19 comments to Asset Forfeiture

  • Clear Glass Ball

    I see angry Crowds, Fire, Smoke, Loud Noises, Banging. Old Signs Torn Down. New Signs that Read; UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

  • jean valjean

    Nothing captures the corruption and greed of asset forfeiture better than district attorney Harry s Connelly’s drooling over the 2008 Mercedes Benz, “brand new.” He looks like he’s about to whip it out and jerk off right there at the podium.

    • Justin Auldphart

      Not even a hint that perhaps arresting this guy might have saved lives..all those greedy peckerheads were concerned with was that they didn’t get the car…note the knowing smiles on the guys on the dais…in the old days the torches and pitchforks would be out in force…

    • claygooding

      That may be on the French version of the clip-,,,,and I have had Nissans that ride better than a Beemer.

  • darkcycle

    O/T. This is the best assessment of Washington State’s problems I’ve seen so far.
    This should not surprise anybody who knows that the Washington State Liquor Control Board managed to turn a State monopoly on Booze into a money losing business. *sigh*
    http://jonathanturley.org/2014/09/21/washington-marijuana-industry-showing-signs-of-unraveling/

    • Frank W.

      This sort of reminds me of southern Oregon’s tax greed. They’re talking about 25% taxes and even one for MMJ! And nothing is going to open until 2016. Talk about sin taxes.

    • primus

      Great link. I said it there, I’ll say it here; the only way to amend or block a law passed by referendum should be by referendum. Any other way is undemocratic. If a community decides, by referendum, to ban dispensaries, they should be able to. The bureaucrats should not be able to do so on their own. It is a citizen-passed initiative, and over-rides the representative side of democracy. In essence we allow representatives to conduct the state’s business in most cases. Once in a while, the citizens take matters into their own hands and pass a law by referendum. They do this only when the representatives are getting it wrong. Really wrong. These laws must be given special recognition as being more valid than those passed by mere representatives. This is true democracy at work, and those who would destroy it are anti-democratic.

      • claygooding

        That is why the DOJ refused to go after CO and WA state,,,they could go after them for selling and producing marijuana but they could not stop them from legalizing it,,to attack their retail and production would result in just a black market to provide the marijuana,,,,hmmm sounds familiar doesn’t it,,too bad their reasoning doesn’t cover that prohibition does the very same thing just with more targets that need arresting.

      • Windy

        Nice idea, but in WA the legislature has the power to alter any citizen passed initiative two years after it passed. The WA legislature has altered all the initiatives since about 1972 (they didn’t alter the 1970 citizen passed legal abortion law, though). They particularly keep changing the citizen passed initiatives that attempt to limit their taxing power.

    • divadab

      Ya it’s a Soviet-style system run by people who think marijuana is bad and are trying to limit access through high taxes. All they will accomplish absent major changes is to buttress the illegal market and to force the licencees to work day and night just to pay the taxes. Not surprising so many applicants have dropped out – for the same reason I didn;t apply – the LCB know nothing about cannabis, their $800,000 outside advisor is also a prohibitionist, they treat cannabis cultivation like a manufacturing activity (they only reluctantly permitted outdoor growing), and they deliberately froze out anyone experienced in the industry in favor of greedy newbies.

      It’s the prohibitionists’ version of legalization and it sucks. Designed by the same guy who put Marc Emery in jail.

      And now they are going after medical which the proponents of I-502 assured us all would not be affected. Fucking lying prohibitionist parasites with dollar signs in their eyes.

  • Mongo

    I’m not a huge buzzfeed fan but this is relevant. There’s some serious mental gymnastics going on in the forfeiture conference clips.
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/nicks29/aif-in-doubtatake-ita-behind-closed-doors-4y3w

  • Yambowitz

    In Systems of Survival (A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics), Jane Jacobs compellingly outlines how corruption arises when the borders that separate the values and functions of the guardian and merchant branches of society are blurred. Police department funding is cut, replaced with new opportunities for funding that are more “entrepreunerial”. While
    corporate leaders can stave off the natural cycle of corporate
    bankruptcies by exercising undue influence on govt leaders.

    See also The Wire season 3, where the police dept is run like it’s a sales department in a big corp, where the monthly numbers have to be met.

    Jacobs wrote that book about 25 years ago. And we’re living with the worse-case future she warned about.

  • Servetus

    Strange, the parallels.

    Forfeiture is theft by the state, a state so overbearing in its authority that it sets itself above those whose responsibility it is to protect. Prohibitionists are not protectors. They are liars and thieves. Where ever such thieves exist, a platform is erected that supports more crime and corruption.

    Forfeiture, or confiscation of assets, results from a targeted victim being so dehumanized by official propaganda that it becomes permissible for the church or state to do extraordinarily horrific things to such people as punishment. And of course for exploitation. The Inquisition reduced the heretic to such an abomination, such a total moral inversion, that canon law was given a green light to confiscate the wealth of heretics down through three to five generations of family members. With alleged heretics, they did just as the prohibitionists do it today, confiscating upon accusation rather than conviction of a crime. But worse. Imagine you’ve built a home, a life, a family, and the authorities come along and take it all away because of something your great grandfather allegedly did.

    The U. S. Constitution explicitly forbids bills of attainder, a legal process that made family members responsible for the crimes of other family members—attainder is related to the word “tainted”, referring to tainted blood. Yet, we still have the phenomenon of church and state persecution vis à vis forfeiture often leading to the utter exploitation of harmless or innocent people.

    It is good the Constitution forbids bills of attainder. Otherwise our modern, domestic prohibitionists would certainly be engaged in stealing from people’s grandkids. Because that’s the kind of people they are.

  • primus

    ‘Splain to me the difference between how the early colonists were treated by the English Crown, and how today’s citizens are treated by their own, democratically elected government. Taxation for the benefit of others? Check. Theft of citizen property (asset forfeiture)? Check. Rulings from a distant government, for the benefit of friends of the government, which are detrimental to the citizenry? Check. There are other examples. You get my drift. When is the next revolution?

    • divadab

      Ya its been obvious for a long time that the tories are back in charge.

    • Windy

      Posted that comment on my Congressional “representative’s” (she doesn’t represent me or half of the people in her district) fb page. She won’t respond, she has never once responded to any comments posted to her page whether praise or condemnation.

    • Crut

      In a way, I think that the Tuesday elections of all those Republicans is going to be a giant social test for them… that they will fail. IOW, we’re giving these imbeciles the power to fix the system, and it’s time to shit or get off the pot. Understandably for some, part of the problem here also is that the “pot” is an overflowing porto-potty full of some really stinky shit, that nobody has attempted to clean or replace for years. But I digress…

      The “Old white guy” party will be “in charge” for a while, and the country will be paying more attention than ever.

  • sudon't

    “Second, people facing asset seizures should be given additional legal rights.”

    Yeah, like constitutional rights, or somethin’. I still can’t understand how this is legal under our constitution.