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FAIR Act to Reform Asset Seizure Laws


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How the shakedown works in Michigan   Seizing cars that leave dispensaries isn't cutting off any illicit proceeds. It is, in my view, generating them for Wayne County.

Not this one.

Sure - after you're convicted in a court of law and the magistrate/judge applies a penalty they consider appropriate. Not just some law official confiscating stuff and forcing you to court to get it b

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On 8/13/2020 at 9:21 PM, MR.CLEAN said:

anything more recent?

Hey, that's more recent than the latest ACLU press release on asset forfeiture, noting introduction of the topic bill in the House.

Congress Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Address Policing for Profit

So that's nice. But Congress doesn't introduce bills. Congresscritters like Rep. Walberg, Tim [R-MI-7] do. He has a whole 26 cosponsors, 14 from TeamD and 12 from TeamR. So that's going nowhere.

On 8/13/2020 at 9:22 PM, MR.CLEAN said:

Do you know why that is?

 

Based on the uninterest in cosposoring, I'd guess the answers are "no votes in it" and/or "no more loot in it."

What's your guess?

   
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Another Drug Gang Kingpin Loses His Ill-Gotten Gains to Heroic Police

Or something. Actually, that virtually never happens and the article is about what really happens instead.

Reagan could always count on someone like Strom Thurmond to support drug war looting, but needed bipartisan support so good ol' Joe Biden stepped up.

 

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55 minutes ago, Cacoethesic Tom said:

Another Drug Gang Kingpin Loses His Ill-Gotten Gains to Heroic Police

Or something. Actually, that virtually never happens and the article is about what really happens instead.

Reagan could always count on someone like Strom Thurmond to support drug war looting, but needed bipartisan support so good ol' Joe Biden stepped up.

 

I do like this reasoning..

" The government presumably will argue that the $15,000 loss is perfectly reasonable given Arizona's draconian penalties for selling small amounts of marijuana, which include a maximum prison term of nearly four years and a maximum fine of $150,000 for amounts less than two pounds. "

So, all you have to do is require the death penalty for any crime and then anything less than the death penalty is actually 'perfectly reasonable', since it's not as bad as the alternative.  Sah-weeet!  What could go wrong!???!?

" Although the charges against her were dropped, the Jeep is still being held as a party to that alleged offense, and McBride has to pay for the privilege of getting his property back."

Well, I guess if corporations can be people, Jeeps can be drug dealers!  Ends justify means, it's all good.

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1 minute ago, cmilliken said:

I do like this reasoning..

" The government presumably will argue that the $15,000 loss is perfectly reasonable given Arizona's draconian penalties for selling small amounts of marijuana, which include a maximum prison term of nearly four years and a maximum fine of $150,000 for amounts less than two pounds. "

So, all you have to do is require the death penalty for any crime and then anything less than the death penalty is actually 'perfectly reasonable', since it's not as bad as the alternative.  Sah-weeet!  What could go wrong!???!?

That might actually work, unfortunately. The excessive fines argument is relying on the case of noted heroin kingpin Tyson Timbs, who won a unanimous Supreme Court victory in part because the value of his car vastly exceeded the maximum fine for his offense.

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On 8/22/2020 at 7:00 AM, Cacoethesic Tom said:

Another Drug Gang Kingpin Loses His Ill-Gotten Gains to Heroic Police

Or something. Actually, that virtually never happens and the article is about what really happens instead.

Good news. Noted weed kingpin Kevin McBride got his Jeep back.
 

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the day after the Goldwater Institute threatened to sue on McBride's behalf, arguing that Arizona's civil forfeiture law unconstitutionally requires property owners to prove their innocence, prosecutors changed their tune.

"Upon inquiry pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-4309(3)(a) & (b), remission is declared," says a letter dated August 21 from Deputy County Attorney Kevin Krejci, the same official who told McBride in an August 11 letter that he would have to pay $1,900 under a "mitigation" agreement to get his Jeep back. "The 2000 JEEP WRANGLER…is released from seizure for forfeiture. The seizing agency and any person holding property for the seizing agency are hereby authorized to arrange the release of the seizure for forfeiture on this property."

Goldwater Institute spokesman Mike Brownfield says "there was no explanation given." But I will go out on a limb and suggest that the government's swift reversal has something to do with the negative publicity and legal risk generated by a case like this one, in which McBride lost his only means of transportation and the basis of his livelihood as a handyman because he let his girlfriend take his Jeep to a convenience store so she could fetch him a cold soda while he was working. The cops claim she then sold marijuana to an undercover officer for $25. Although the charges against her were dropped, the Jeep remained in custody, accused of participating in criminal activity, because that is how civil forfeiture works.

...

 

 

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4 hours ago, MR.CLEAN said:

Why doesn't the G.I. sue anyway?  Clearly this is the kind of action that the defendant can repeat ad nauseum.

You would probably have better-informed answers than I do because I'm not a lawyer, but possibly

1. They already got what they were seeking: the Jeep. I guess they could still sue for a fair rental car rate for the time period he was without his vehicle. The argument that the government can keep forfeited property while evaluating whether to return it and doesn't have to pay compensation might just win though.

2. Maybe they could seek some kind of injunction saying that the government can't do this any more, but the "this" in question is the subject of this thread for a reason and again they might well lose.

3. It costs money and the things I mentioned are viewed as too expensive and risky to pursue.

4. They'd need to represent a plaintiff and Mr. McBride may just be glad to get his vehicle back and would rather get back to his life than tilt at this particular windmill.

Have you got any guesses?

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Astute choices, 4 most likely. G.I. Has funding to run this all the way up the ladder and PDs are terrified to give any more judges the chance to make Timbs just a starting point. It’s clearly the precise kind of question that is not moot despite the PD returning the Jeep thanks to the governments ability (and probably ongoing actions) to continue the civil rights violations repeatedly. 

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5 hours ago, MR.CLEAN said:

PDs are terrified to give any more judges the chance to make Timbs just a starting point.

I'm terrified that the argument outlined in post 612 above might prevail and the result would be ridiculously draconian penalties for most any violation to defeat the Timbs precedent.

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SCOTUS to hear Chicago v Fulton in October

This challenge to Chicago's vehicle impound racket is based on bankruptcy code violations.
 

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On October 13, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case that addresses the intersection of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and the explosion of municipalities using fines and fees to raise revenue across the nation. The case, Chicago v. Fulton, considers to what extent the Bankruptcy Code protects people who are driven into bankruptcy by court debt from the actions of rapacious municipal governments to collect on that debt.

Under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, when a debtor files for bankruptcy, that action creates a bankruptcy estate that is made up of the debtor’s property and overseen by the bankruptcy trustee. The filing also creates what is called an “automatic stay” of efforts by creditors to collect on debts owed by the debtor. It also requires any entity that possesses the debtor’s property to turn that property over to the bankruptcy estate. The federal courts are split on whether a creditor may retain that property and force the trustee to file suit to have it returned or whether the creditor must immediately return it as part of the automatic stay.

In the cases before the Court, the City of Chicago, which runs a massive fine and impound program from which it derives roughly 9% of the city’s operating budget, seized the debtors’ cars before bankruptcy and refused to return them after they filed for bankruptcy protection. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that, by retaining the cars, the city was attempting to pressure the debtors to pay off their debt to the city and, as such, the city was violating the automatic stay. The city sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

A philosophically diverse coalition of the groups that work in the fines and fees area filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the 7th Circuit. The brief—filed by the Institute for Justice, the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the ACLU of Illinois, the Cato Institute, the Fines and Fees Justice Center, the R Street Institute, the Rutherford Institute, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation—argued that the purpose of the Bankruptcy Code is to allow debtors a fresh start and that this goal is more important than ever because the rise of civil and criminal fines and fees over the past three decades has forced people into bankruptcy. Fueled by local and state governments’ desire for revenue, the explosion of fines and fees has mired millions of people into an endless spiral of debt. The city’s failure to return the cars it impounded was consistent with the efforts of municipalities across the country to force people who cannot pay their court debt to do so through harsh means, such as impoundment, arrest, and even imprisonment.

“The City of Chicago here is acting directly contrary to the purpose of the Bankruptcy Code,” IJ Senior Nutjob Bill Maurer said.

...

IJ is also challenging Chicago’s massive and procedurally unfair impound system directly. They represent Chicago area residents in a constitutional challenge to the system. The Illinois trial court recently rejected Chicago’s efforts to dismiss the case.

 

I hope the 7th Circuit ruling is upheld but the other suit mentioned at the end there has the potential to help a lot more people.

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On 3/5/2020 at 8:31 AM, Cacoethesic Tom said:
On 1/18/2020 at 5:45 AM, Plenipotentiary Tom said:

More on the case of Terrence Rolin and his daughter, Rebecca Brown, who was flying with $82k in cash.

Good news for Mr. Rolin and Ms. Brown

...

It's too bad that they couldn't find credible legal representation, but at least the result was good.

They got the money back but are still participating in the class action lawsuit filed by meddlesome Koch-$pon$ored nutjobs.

On 3/6/2020 at 9:37 AM, Cacoethesic Tom said:

I'm glad that lawsuit will continue and hope for more good news.
 

An apology would be nice, but repayment with penalties and interest would be even better.

 

The class action suit has new plaintiffs: noted gambler and car dealer Stacey Jones and her husband
 

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After flying from Tampa to North Carolina for a casino reopening last May, Stacy Jones and her husband had dinner with friends, who were interested in buying a car the couple owned. They paid for it in cash. When the couple had to cut their trip short because of a death in the family, Jones put that money, along with cash she had for gambling, in a carry-on bag and headed for the airport in Wilmington, never considering the possibility that she was about to be robbed of $43,000 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

A local sheriff's deputy, alerted to the presence of seizable cash by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners, grilled Jones and her husband about the money and deemed their explanation fishy, even after he called their friend, who confirmed the car purchase but was unable to say exactly how many miles were on the odometer. The deputy called in two DEA agents, who interrogated the couple some more and then announced that they were seizing the money based on their suspicion that it was related to drug trafficking.

Jones is the latest named plaintiff in a federal class action lawsuit that the Institute for Justice filed in January, arguing that the DEA's practice of seizing money from travelers without any evidence of criminal activity violates the Fourth Amendment. The lawsuit also argues that the TSA's participation in this racket is unconstitutional and exceeds the agency's statutory authority.

...

"Civil forfeiture allows the government to seize and permanently keep your property, even if you've never been charged with a crime," Institute for Justice senior nutjob Dan Alban explained to WFLA. "DEA has a policy of seizing large amounts of cash at airports, regardless if it has any proof the money is connected to drug trafficking. And unfortunately, that sweeps up a whole bunch of innocent people who have perfectly legitimate reasons for traveling with cash."

...

 

 

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International Arms Smuggler Wants His Truck Back
 

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Today, a federal appeals court ruled that law enforcement agencies can seize and keep Americans’ cars indefinitely without giving the owners an opportunity to plead their case in front of a judge. The decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is a blow to the constitutional rights of car-owners in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, including Gerardo Serrano, who brought the case with the help of nutjobs at the Institute for Justice.

Gerardo’s case started in 2015, when he was traveling to Mexico to visit family in his brand-new F-250. As he was crossing the border, Customs and Border Protection officers searched his truck, where they found five low-caliber bullets he had forgotten in the bottom of his center console. Calling the bullets “munitions of war,” the agents seized his truck. Five forgotten bullets are all it took for the government to argue that Gerardo was an international arms smuggler, rob him of his property and refuse to take the matter before a judge for years. The truck sat in a government impound lot until 2017, when IJ got involved in Gerardo’s case. In all of that time, Gerardo never had an opportunity to plead his case before a judge.

“When the government takes someone’s property, the owners should have an opportunity to challenge the seizure in court immediately, not wait days, months, or, as in Gerardo’s case, even years for the ability to plead their case in court,” said Anya Bidwell, a nutjob at the Institute for Justice, which represents Gerardo. “The Supreme Court has already said that there must be a prompt hearing when you’re arrested. It also requires pre-seizure hearings for real estate. It makes no sense for the Fifth Circuit to hold that a car is somehow different and you are not entitled to quickly see a judge and contest its seizure.”

While today’s decision is disappointing, Gerardo is not done fighting. He and the Institute for Justice will now ask the United States Supreme Court to take up the case. In a similar case, a separate federal appeals court determined that property owners do, in fact, have a right to quickly challenge a seizure in court. Writing for the court, then-Appeals Court Judge Sonya Sotomayor held that these so-called “prompt post-seizure hearings” are required by the Constitution.

...

 

I agree with the Wise Latina and hope that Mr. Gerardo can win in the Supreme Court despite his nutjob legal representation.

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I got his name wrong in that post but here's another article about noted international arms smuggler Gerardo Serrano
 

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...Five years ago, Serrano was on his way to visit his cousin in Mexico when Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in Eagle Pass, Texas, found a magazine containing five .380-caliber rounds in the center console of his pickup truck. Serrano, a U.S. citizen with a Kentucky concealed-carry permit, said he did not realize the magazine was in the vehicle and offered to leave it behind as he continued on his journey. But as far as the CBP agents were concerned, those five cartridges made Serrano an international arms smuggler. Although he was never charged with a crime, the agents seized the truck, a 2014 Ford F-250.

After Serrano paid a $3,800 cash bond for the privilege of trying to get his truck back, two years went by without a hearing. Then in October 2017, a month after the Institute for Justice helped him file a lawsuit arguing that the government's forfeiture practices violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process, CBP suddenly decided to return his vehicle, which the government had never officially tried to keep. Serrano continued to pursue his lawsuit, which aimed to qualify as a class action, because he wanted to stop this sort of thing from happening again. A federal judge shot him down two years ago, and yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed that Serrano had failed to state a due process claim.

...

"We cannot ignore the context of the underlying seizure," the court said. "The Government's interest in preventing the unlawful exportation of munitions, drugs, and other contraband is significant."

You might think that the relevant "context" in this case was that Serrano lost his truck simply because he forgot about the five handgun rounds he had left in the center console. Although CBP claimed "the truck was used in an attempt to illegally export munitions from the United States, in violation of federal law," it is obvious that Serrano, who never even crossed the border with his "munitions" and offered to leave them behind when he realized his mistake, was not involved in any such activity. Serrano was never charged with violating federal law, and neither was his truck, since the government did not actually file a forfeiture complaint. Given the situation, the 5th Circuit's invocation of the government's interest in preventing international arms smuggling is comical.

...

 

I have to agree that calling him an international arms smuggler is comical, which is why I intend to keep it up.

Sorry about posting two Koch-$pon$ored $ources in a row there, but, well, you try to find any other kind of news on the 5th circuit decision.

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On 8/29/2020 at 4:10 AM, Cacoethesic Tom said:

I'm terrified that the argument outlined in post 612 above might prevail and the result would be ridiculously draconian penalties for most any violation to defeat the Timbs precedent.

Something like that already happened to Elizabeth Young.
 

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in Pennsylvania it was the state’s Supreme Court rather than the legislature that dealt a blow to civil asset forfeiture. Its decision in Commonwealth v. 1997 Chevrolet and Contents Seized from James Young held that the Eighth Amendment, which prevents the imposition of “excessive fines” must apply to civil forfeitures, thus checking the practice among law enforcement agencies of confiscating property of great value from people who have committed no crime.

In that case, 72-year old Elizabeth Young was stunned when police informed her that because her adult son had conducted some drug sales from her home and car, they were taking both her home and car from her. There was no allegation that she was in any way guilty of those offenses, but because her property had been involved, it was subject to forfeiture.

She fought against that seizure and lost the first legal round, but the appeals court reversed. The state, wishing to keep its profitable operations going, then appealed to the Supreme Court. That court looked at the case through the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against excessive fines. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that criminal forfeitures may not be “grossly disproportional to the gravity of the defendant’s offense” but hadn’t ruled on civil asset forfeitures.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement may not seize property unless it had a “significant relationship” to the crime – that it was “uniquely important to the commission of the offense” and further that the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause prevents forfeitures where the loss of value is grossly disproportionate. The government had argued that since the son’s conduct made him potentially liable for fines exceeding $100,000, it was not excessive to take the home of the 72-year old mother, appraised at only $54,000. The court, however, rejected that calculus, stating that while market value may be appropriate in some cases, where the property is a necessity of daily life, like a home or vehicle, it carries additional value to the owner and must be subject to a subjective, non-pecuniary analysis.

...

 

Her case is mentioned in this article:

Restrict Asset Forfeiture
 

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Like many other abuses justified by the drug war, civil asset forfeiture has expanded government power over time. It has bestowed upon police an all-but-limitless authority to steal private property without cause or accountability, eroding Americans' "fundamental freedoms…with barely a whimper of protest from the courts," as Detroit attorney Stefan B. Herpel put it in Reason 30 years ago.

As Herpel observed then, civil asset forfeiture can be traced to a medieval belief that objects can cause death and other harm of their own accord. Today's civil asset forfeiture proceedings are in rem ("against a thing"), explains the Institute for Justice, a nutjob law firm that has litigated a number of asset forfeiture cases and filed an amicus brief in support of Young. Just as superstitious beliefs in the Middle Ages allowed kings to seize supposedly evil property that was found to have caused someone's death, the drug war has allowed law enforcement to seize houses, cars, life savings, and other private property. These assets pad the budgets of police departments and prosecutors' offices, though law enforcement insists the purpose of seizures is to disrupt organized criminal activity. This centuries-old understanding of forfeiture is reflected in the titles of civil asset forfeiture cases. Young's case, for example, was filed under Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. 1997 Chevrolet and Contents Seized From James Young.

...

 

I thought about posing a question on this topic in Gouv's thread about what to ask at the Presidential Debates.

It would be nice to have someone on the stage who would not answer with:

"I wrote those laws and have no interest in changing them" or

"I nominated Jeff Fucking Sesssions to be AG"

 

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On 7/11/2019 at 5:18 AM, Quotidian Tom said:

Couple of updates on the lawn moving front.

Mr. Ficken's lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss back in April
 

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A judge in the Middle District of Florida denied the city’s motion to dismiss Jim’s lawsuit. Now the lawsuit, which argues the city’s imposition of $500 daily fines for trivial home maintenance issues violates the Excessive Fines clauses of the U.S. and Florida Constitutions, will proceed to final judgment.

“Nobody should incur tens of thousands of dollars in fines and risk losing their property because their grass grew too long,” IJ Nutjob Ari Bargil said. “The constitution expressly protects against fines that are excessive—and excessive is precisely what these penalties are. No one should have to pay $30,000 for tall grass. Yesterday’s decision takes us one step closer to vindicating Jim’s constitutional rights in court.”

 

And in other unkempt lawn news,

Judge: Port St. Lucie homeowner's 'high grass and weeds' are Florida-friendly flowers

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...Port St. Lucie's Neighborhood Services Department cited Goldberg's yard on Volucia Drive in March for having "high grass and weeds over 12 inches" tall, a violation of city codes.

But at a hearing Wednesday in Port St. Lucie City Hall, when officials couldn't definitely say the grass and weeds weren't actually native Florida flowers that just happened to not be blooming, Special Magistrate Robert Makemson ruled the plants could stay.

A coral honeysuckle growing outside Goldberg's bathroom window, on the other hand, didn't meet the city's definition of "neat and orderly" and will have to be trimmed, Makemson said.

The job will have to be done by Oct. 31, the judge said, or Goldberg would be fined $50 a day and have to pay the $411 cost of the city's investigation on her case.

She'll do it, Goldberg said after the hearing, "but it's a shame. That vine is an important host plant for hummingbirds."

In an ongoing spat with the city, Goldberg has contended her yard is more compliant with city codes than the vast majority of lawns in Port St. Lucie because objectives of the city's Landscape and Land Clearing Code are to "preserve and protect existing vegetation, promote water conservation and encourage greater use of native cold-tolerant and drought-tolerant landscape material." 

City Attorney Sebastian Poprawski countered: "We're not prohibiting any species of plant; we just want her to properly maintain what's there."

Makemson asked Goldberg if she regularly maintains her yard.

"I'm out there three to four hours every day," Goldberg said.

"Doing what?" Makemson asked.

Mostly getting rid of plants "that don't belong in my yard," Goldberg replied, noting she had removed over 1,200 Brazilian pepper tree seedlings that had blown in from surrounding city-owned property.

 

I wonder how that number was calculated? I'm sure I've killed thousands of the damn things but no real idea how many.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Amusingly Stupid Looter in South Carolina
 

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The Institute for Justice (IJ), which will soon argue before the South Carolina Supreme Court that it should end the controversial practice of civil forfeiture, calls attention to the sentencing of Blair Shaffer, the former police chief of Manning, South Carolina. Yesterday, a federal court sentenced Shaffer to a year and a day in prison for his theft of nearly $80,000 in cash seized by his office during a traffic stop. Shaffer’s sentencing is part of a series of high-profile prosecutions that demonstrate the need to end “policing for profit” in the Palmetto State.

Shaffer’s theft was discovered after a state court ordered that some of the seized money be returned to the property owners, and the money was sent to their attorneys in the form of checks drawn from Shaffer’s personal bank account. ...

 

WTF was the loot doing in his personal account?
 

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“South Carolinians’ property rights deserve to be treated with respect, but it is not surprising to see that another former law enforcement official has been convicted for misusing seized funds since the legal practice of civil forfeiture lets law enforcement treat citizens like ATMs,” said Robert Frommer, a senior nutjob at the Institute for Justice. “Moving seized funds into a personal bank account is a crime. Yet it is legal for officers to seize cash without charging the owner with a crime—let alone securing a conviction—and then use that cash as a slush fund for their agency. The South Carolina Supreme Court should end civil forfeiture’s profit incentive, which too often turn cops into robbers.”

...

 

I agree with the quoted nutjob.

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On 9/3/2020 at 7:13 AM, Quotidian Tom said:

The class action suit has new plaintiffs: noted gambler and car dealer Stacy Jones and her husband

Stacy got her money back.
 

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Stacy Jones’s $43,167 will be returned to her after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wrongfully seized it as she was flying home to Tampa from the Wilmington International Airport in May of this year. Without offering any explanation or apology for the harm caused by confiscating her money, the DEA informed the Institute for Justice (IJ) via letter that it would transfer the money back to Stacy.

...

“Getting my money back is a big relief, but DEA never should have taken it in the first place,” said Stacy. “In going through this nightmare, I found out that I’m not the only innocent American who has been treated this way. I hope that my continuing lawsuit will end the government’s practice of treating people flying with cash like criminals.”

IJ’s federal class action lawsuit aims to stop TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional and unlawful airport cash seizure practices. First, the suit claims that TSA exceeds its statutory authority by seizing travelers and their luggage simply for traveling with a “large” amount of cash, which poses no threat to transportation security—the agency’s sole mission. Second, the suit claims that this TSA practice also violates the Fourth Amendment rights of flyers. Third, the suit claims that the DEA violates the Fourth Amendment rights of flyers by seizing them based solely on the belief or knowledge that they are traveling with a large amount of cash, and by seizing their money for civil forfeiture without probable cause, based solely on its amount.

“We are glad that Stacy will get her money back, but it is shameful that federal agents keep targeting innocent flyers at our nation’s airports,” said IJ Senior Nutjob Dan Alban. “We are going to keep fighting to end TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional and unlawful practices of seizing people and their cash without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

...

 

Glad to see at least a tacit admission that they had no defensible reason for seizing her money.

I hope that I live long enough to see these forfeitures end but electing a new President who helped write these rules isn't a good start at all.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

How to Beat Legalized Larceny

The article examines a number of cases in which various government agencies have returned forfeited assets and the general answer that applies to all seems to be: get the nutjobs at IJ to represent you pro bono.
 

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...While the DEA offered no explanation for its sudden benevolence, the reversal fit a pattern: Government bullies who use civil asset forfeiture laws to seize allegedly crime-tainted property from innocent people tend to back down when they encounter unexpected resistance. But because challenging a forfeiture is complicated and expensive, most targets of legalized larceny are in no position to put up a fight.

...

 

The pattern of returning assets in response to legal action in a handful of cases has the "benefit" of keeping the looting in place for "most targets of legalized larceny" and that's the only reason it ever happens.

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On 2/4/2020 at 11:19 AM, Quotidian Tom said:

Gerardo Serrano is appealing the dismissal of his own case
 

I must again apologize for my elk undertaking this attack on the American way of life.

The Serrano saga continues. Past-due process?

Case Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court Seeks to Ensure Prompt Hearings After Property Seizures
 

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Does due process require a prompt hearing after the government seizes a vehicle through civil forfeiture?  That is the question the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will consider addressing in Serrano v. Customs and Border Patrol, a lawsuit appealed by the Institute for Justice (IJ) on behalf of its client, Gerardo Serrano, who had his new truck taken from him at the Mexican border in 2015.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) didn’t like that Gerardo took photos at the border, which he planned to share on social media with relatives in Mexico to let them know he would see them soon.  Two agents objected and, after stopping Gerardo’s truck, physically removed him from it, took possession of his phone, and repeatedly demanded the password.  Gerardo, a staunch believer in civil liberties who has run for elected office on a platform of respect for constitutional rights, suggested that the agents obtain a warrant.  The border agents responded by telling Gerardo they were “sick of hearing about [ ] rights.”  In retaliation, they went through his new Ford pickup with a fine-tooth comb searching for any excuse to seize his vehicle.  They found five low-caliber bullets, which they absurdly called “munitions of war,” and used them as an excuse to take his vehicle.  (There was no gun in the vehicle.)  For the next two years, despite Gerardo’s repeated requests, the government never gave him his day in court to prove his vehicle’s innocence or to force the government to justify its actions before a judge.

Shortly after Gerardo filed a class-action lawsuit against the CBP (Serrano v. Customs and Border Patrol), the agency tried to moot Gerardo’s case by returning the vehicle.  But the trial court held that the case was not moot—as Gerardo could move forward with class-action claims on behalf of all U.S. citizens who have had vehicles seized at the border—and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.  Still, having rejected the government’s attempt to moot the case, both courts held that due process does not require government to provide a prompt post-seizure hearing after seizing automobiles.  That ruling is now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In the criminal context, after the government arrests you, it must hold a probable cause hearing shortly after the arrest—even if the criminal trial follows later,” said Rob Johnson, an IJ nutjob.  “We are saying the government must provide the same kind of prompt hearing after it takes your property.”

...

 

The petition notes a circuit court split on this issue, with then-Judge Sotomayor among those who have said that prompt post seizure hearings are required.

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On 10/22/2020 at 5:10 AM, Quotidian Tom said:

Couple of updates on the lawn moving front.

Mr. Ficken's lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss back in April
 

And in other unkempt lawn news,

Judge: Port St. Lucie homeowner's 'high grass and weeds' are Florida-friendly flowers

I wonder how that number was calculated? I'm sure I've killed thousands of the damn things but no real idea how many.

 

More unkempt lawn news from Eagle, Wisconsin.

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...

Eagle imposed $87,900 in fines and fee on Annalyse and Joseph Victor for a variety of violations related to a few trucks that were parked on their nearly 10 acres of rural property. Joseph is a semi-truck driver, and the couple bought the property in part because the previous owner parked his trucks there. After being notified of violations by a letter, they spent months trying to work it out with the town.

When the town’s attorney filed the fines in county court, the Victors never received notice of the hearing. At that hearing, the judge signed off on the fines and fees but struck out a provision sought by the town that would have threatened Annalyse with six months in jail if the couple could not immediately pay. It was only later that the Victors first found out how much the town was demanding from them and that the court had ruled for the town. They are now asking the judge to roll back that ruling so that they can contest their fines.

“The Town of Eagle is trying to ruin us with fines on top of fines for things we didn’t even know were wrong,” said Joseph Victor. “When we searched for a home, we looked for a rural property where we could park trucks without bothering our neighbors. Eagle didn’t turn out to be the place we thought it would be, but this fine makes it impossible for us to sell our home and leave.”

Erica and Zach Mallory thought they had found their little slice of heaven in Eagle. In 2016, they purchased nearly four acres of land where they raise chickens and lambs, grow fruits and vegetables, and maintain beehives. But Erica found out the town had a dark side when she started regularly attending council meetings. And after Erica spoke out in support of neighbors, her small Mallory Meadows Farm was inspected.

The town threw the book at them for minor violations like an unpermitted flower planter, tall grass and the location of a barn that was on the property when they purchased the land. They are now being threatened with more than $20,000 in fines and fees. When Erica asked one of the board members about the board’s decision to pursue the Mallorys for ordinance violations, she was told that she had “ticked off all the board members with [her] meeting comments and on [F]acebook,” and so “the board members voted with emotion.”

“Local codes have to be enforced fairly and without favoritism, not because town officials don’t like what you have to say at meetings,” said IJ Nutjob Alexa Gervasi. “Targeting someone for their political speech is a grave violation of the First Amendment and equal protection. Governments cannot go out of their way to punish you because you have criticized them.”

...

 

A press release noted that the previous owner of Mr. Victor's property used to park trucks there. Semi truck owner/operators buy rural property and park their trucks. It's a thing. An $88k fine is a thing too. Yikes. Probably approaches or exceeds the value of the property. All imposed without notifying the owners?

The Mallory's case sounds about as bad, especially if the comments about using code enforcement as punishment for speech can be proven.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

New Policing for Profit Report Released
 

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ARLINGTON, Va.Nationwide, civil forfeiture laws put innocent property owners at risk and encourage law enforcement to police for profit, with billions of dollars forfeited each year. So finds the latest edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, released today by the Institute for Justice (IJ) 

...

“The heart of the problem remains poor state and federal civil forfeiture laws, which are little improved since the previous edition of Policing for Profit was published in 2015,” said IJ Senior Director of Strategic Nutjobbery and report co-author Lisa Knepper. “Most laws still stack the deck against property owners and give law enforcement perverse financial incentives to pursue property over justice.”  

Policing for Profit grades state and federal civil forfeiture laws based on the portion of proceeds directed to law enforcement coffers and the protections offered property owners. Thirty-five states and the federal government earn a D+ or worse. New Mexico earns the report’s only A, thanks to a 2015 reform that eliminated civil forfeiture and directed all forfeiture proceeds to the state’s general fund.  

...

 

I long for a day when setting up our fucked up forfeiture system does NOT get a person elected President, but that day will have to wait at least four more years.

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8 hours ago, Olsonist said:

Imagine that Biden set up our forfeiture system. Just imagine!

Imagine I'm not aware of

On 3/7/2020 at 4:29 PM, Quotidian Tom said:


But go ahead and act like he wasn't a leading drug warrior and looter for decades. Non-readers will likely believe you because TeamD. I won't. 

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Justin Amash Introduces Bill To End Civil Asset Forfeiture Nationwide
 

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...

Amash's bill would eliminate the practice as we know it nationwide. "Civil asset forfeiture is a due process violation, and it always has been," said Amash in a statement. "Its history is riddled with injustices not because it's a valid practice that gets misused, but because its central premise—denying people their procedural rights—is inherently flawed. By ending it, my bill helps fulfill Congress's obligation to stop rights violations at both the state and federal level, and it ends a practice that contributes to the frayed relationship between law enforcement and the public."

...

The libertarian congressman, who is retiring after this session, has long been a proponent of criminal justice reform. Earlier this year, he introduced the first bill to abolish qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that makes it difficult to hold public officials accountable for violating your civil rights.

"The Constitution authorizes and obligates each branch of the Federal Government to protect individual rights," the bill reads. "The long-term failure of Congress, presidents, and the judiciary to recognize the illegitimacy of the government's civil forfeiture practices does not divest them of the authority to do so. The government cannot lawfully jettison the rights of the accused for the sake of convenience and profit."

 

Amash is leaving and I doubt this will go anywhere. By the time it did, it would land on Joe Biden's desk for a signature and there's no evidence Joe wants to undo this part of his career.

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States Are Finally Revoking Cops' License To Steal

An overly optimistic headline in my opinion. Some states are finally sorta doing that but only a couple have taken actions that are consequential. 
 

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...

Brad Cates, who directed the Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture Office from 1985 to 1989, watched with growing horror as the monster he had helped create wreaked havoc across the country. Initially, he viewed civil forfeiture as a useful tool to confiscate the assets of big-time drug traffickers and make crime less profitable. But as the crimes that could be used to justify federal forfeitures expanded from half a dozen to hundreds; as one state after another emulated Uncle Sam; and as examples of innocent victims accumulated, Cates had a change of heart.

"We tried to fix it, and it didn't fix," he says. "They made a stab at it, and it didn't significantly change anything."

...

As far as Brad Cates is concerned, that rationale for preserving civil forfeiture is completely wrongheaded. "Need the money, need the money, need the money," he says. "That's just not a proper motive for the government to be bounty hunters. If we need more, then you appropriate more."

Cates favors a long list of forfeiture reforms. But he thinks assigning forfeiture revenue to a state's general fund rather than police and prosecutors, which eliminates their profit motive and neutralizes their budgetary argument, is the single most important way to curtail abuses.

...

 

He's right about that, and played a role in taking away the profit incentive in New Mexico, the only state to have done so.

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10 hours ago, Quotidian Tom said:

States Are Finally Revoking Cops' License To Steal

An overly optimistic headline in my opinion. Some states are finally sorta doing that but only a couple have taken actions that are consequential. 
 

He's right about that, and played a role in taking away the profit incentive in New Mexico, the only state to have done so.

So at first he only wanted to selectively remove people's rights.....  

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1 hour ago, Ned said:

So at first he only wanted to selectively remove people's rights.....  

If you're talking about this, yes.

Quote

Initially, he viewed civil forfeiture as a useful tool to confiscate the assets of big-time drug traffickers and make crime less profitable.

And that was a common view at the time and remains common enough today that the laws are still on the books and the looting is still ongoing.

The reality is that the rare, large seizures from actual big traffickers are acceptable losses to them and don't make crime enough less profitable to drive them out of business at all. Meanwhile, the common seizures are from people far removed from those dealers, which is why I sarcastically refer to "noted heroin kingpin Tyson Timbs" in this thread.

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Although Florida reigns in looting, there is a bit of a bright spot to be found...
 

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...

State law requires any local law enforcement agency that takes in at least $15,000 within a fiscal year through the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act to donate at least 25% of forfeiture proceeds to community programs that handle drug treatment, drug abuse education, drug prevention, crime prevention, neighborhood safety, or a school resource officer program.

The I-Team reviewed state data and found, overall, agencies are falling short of that donation requirement.

In St. Petersburg, however, the police department has a history of donating more than what the state requires.

“I look at it as anything to help the kids, we want to give back to,” Chief Anthony Holloway said.

St. Petersburg police hand out $100,000 in forfeiture checks to local organizations

Last year, St. Pete Police gave $100,000 of the $119,000 it collected in forfeitures to dozens of local organizations.

...

 

 

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Wow, someone at the Orlando Slantinel read the new Policing for Profit report.

 

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Law enforcement agencies in Florida seized nearly $266 million in cash, cars, homes and other property in 2018, outpacing every other state in forfeiture collections, according to a new study.

The seizures came in part from the use of civil forfeiture, a legal tool that allows police to take people’s cash or property if they suspect it was involved in criminal activity, and often keep it even if the owner is never convicted of a crime. Florida lawmakers passed restrictions on the practice four years ago, but critics say financial incentives and the state’s reputation as a hub for drug activity encourage police to keep using it.

Since 2000, the U.S. has seized $68.8 billion, a figure that is “drastically underestimated” because some states, including Florida, aren’t providing all their data, according to the study by the Institute for Justice, a nutjob law firm.

...

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

South Carolina justices accuse attorney of dodging questions in challenge to civil forfeiture law
 

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State Supreme Court justices pressed an attorney defending South Carolina’s civil asset forfeiture law with dozens of questions on Wednesday about the practice’s legitimacy, the timing of cases being resolved, and whether the state’s system of seizure and forfeiture leads to frequent abuses by police.

...

“Wouldn’t you agree that the application of our forfeiture statute, I’m talking generally about application of the statute, has resulted in abuses, disproportionate forfeitures and is a legitimate cause for concern?” Justice John W. Kittredge said.

Battle started to answer, and Kittredge said, “I don’t want you to answer the question by filibuster, and I think you just answered because you’re not willing to acknowledge that the application of our forfeiture statutes in South Carolina have resulted in abuses.”

...

Robert Frommer, a senior nutjob with the Institute for Justice, argued the text of South Carolina’s law creates abuses and created the profit incentive for police to use forfeitures in an overhanded way.

“It forces people to prove their innocence,” Frommer said. “It doesn’t give them hearings for months, if not years. And that affects everyone in South Carolina, not just Travis Green.”

...

Chief Justice Donald Beatty questioned why solicitors, when trying a forfeiture case in civil court, must only prove probable cause since police initially had to show probable cause. Battle said the solicitor must “reaffirm probable cause” to the judge.

In South Carolina, law enforcement receives 75 percent of proceeds from forfeitures, while the prosecuting agency receives 20 percent; 5 percent goes to the state general fund.

Justice Kaye Hearn asked Battle if law enforcement having a financial stake affects how they operate. Battle said it can, but a judge must approve the forfeiture.

“So I guess your answer is, even though it may have been improper on the front end, at the tail end of this process it gets fixed by the court?” Hearn said.

“Exactly,” Battle replied.

Justice John Few’s line of questions sought to understand whether an agency could obtain a forfeiture ruling from a judge before a criminal case is ever decided. It can happen because the cases are separate and the standard of proof is lower in the civil case than the criminal case, Battle said.

“Your forfeiture action, it seems to me, you’re being relieved of the burden of proving that a crime occurred,” Few said.

...

 

Ouch. The grilling went on for 30 minutes longer than scheduled, according to the article. Sounds like they may take a whack at the practice but even a state supreme court can only do so much.

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On 12/15/2020 at 7:42 PM, Polytelum Tom said:

New Policing for Profit Report Released
 

I long for a day when setting up our fucked up forfeiture system does NOT get a person elected President, but that day will have to wait at least four more years.

Oh my, get me my vapors!

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7 hours ago, Ishmael said:

Benzoylmethylecgonine

"Oooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell

Oooh that smell

The smell of death surrounds you..."

Sigmund Freud used this, regrettably, to give himself a little pick-me-up; Tony Montana's pillow stuffer; white girl; yayo; blow; snow; a precursor to crack, the crystalline rock that will drain your bank account, make your job, dog, and wife vanish, burn every bridge you once had, and turn you to a prostitute that swings every which way. As an added bonus: herpes, hepatitis C, and even AIDS can often be gifted to the user. On a positive note, it does feel good for about 15 minutes! (this product may cause heart damage, liver damage, brain damage, lung damage, everything damage, homelessness, and most certainly death; do not use while operating machinery and taking care of a baby)
"...She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie, benzoylmethylecgonine..."
Urban Dictionary
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/9/2017 at 8:48 AM, Pedagogical Tom said:

Transcript shows Trump has zero understanding of civil asset forfeiture

 

 

Almost everyone, left and right, was pretty much like Trump back when Reagan decided to expand forfeiture abuse in the drug war and libertarians first started to complain about it.

 

Now people who are ignorant of the abuses are more rare and even some old drug warriors have come around over the years. Guns.

I missed it back in 2017 but the Marshall Project reacted at the time.

“If Someone is Bringing Drugs into Mar-a-Lago, Police Could Try to Seize it.”

Hmm... not sure that's helping. Lots of "ends justify means" people out there.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/27/2020 at 9:24 PM, Pedagogical Tom said:

Looks like no suitable "emergency" could be conjured up and noted heroin dealer Tyson Timbs finally got his car back.

tyson-timbs-1200x675.jpg
 

Well, at least he got it back for now. I hope the Indiana Supreme Court doesn't reverse this outcome on the coming appeal.

It would be nice if the Indiana AG were scared to pursue that appeal because of voter backlash but there are really only a handful of libertarian nutjobs in the world who have a problem with our forfeiture laws and it's not a topic that's going to generate a lot of political interest. As Eva Dent.

The Indiana Supreme Court will once again hear the case about Tyson Timbs' car today.
 

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...

Will the third time before the Indiana Supreme Court finally be the charm for Tyson Timbs to resolve once and for all the legal case over the government’s seizure of his vehicle? Indiana’s lower courts have repeatedly ruled that taking Timbs’ vehicle for a low-level drug offense violates the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. In 2019, the case also prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule definitively that the Excessive Fines Clause applies not just to the federal government, but to the states as well. Since then, the trial court in Grant County, Indiana, has once again ruled that the state’s forfeiture campaign against Timbs amounts to an unconstitutional excessive fine. The State of Indiana, once again, has appealed.

At the hearing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, February 4, 2021, Sam Gedge, a nutjob for the Institute for Justice, which represents Timbs, will argue that the lower court got it right.

...

 

It's too bad that he still can't find credible legal representation, but I wish him well anyway.

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Indiana argued that taking the Land Rover from Timbs was not excessive, and even if it was, it doesn't matter because nothing can go too far when enforcing a stupid prohibition program.
 

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...

"The state is once again asking the Indiana Supreme Court to hold that there is no proportionality limit on how much property they can forfeit, that they can forfeit a Bugatti if it goes five miles over the speed limit, regardless of what an obvious mismatch and injustice that would be," says Sam Gedge, a nutjob at the Institute for Justice, the legal nonprofit representing Timbs.

Their alternative argument isn't much better. The state maintains that, even if proportionality is on the table, "when it comes to punishing anybody who struggled with drug addiction, no punishment is too high," Gedge explains. "So [the state] can basically take everything they own, and that shouldn't violate the excessive fines clause."

...

 

 

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New Report: Forfeiture Doesn’t Work to Combat Crime but Is Used to Raise Revenue
 

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...a new study released today by the Institute for Justice (IJ), “Does Forfeiture Work?,” demonstrates that state forfeiture programs do not help police fight crime. Instead, the study indicates that police use forfeiture to boost revenue—in other words, to police for profit. The study uses a newly assembled set of forfeiture data from five states that use forfeiture extensively—Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota—as well as detailed state and local crime, drug use and economic data.

Specifically, the new study finds:

  • More forfeiture proceeds do not help police solve more crimes—and they may, perversely, make police less effective at solving violent crimes.
  • More forfeiture proceeds do not lead to less drug use, even though forfeiture proponents have long cited fighting the illicit drug trade—and the reduction of drug use—as a primary purpose of forfeiture.
  • When local budgets are squeezed, police respond by increasing their reliance on forfeiture. A one percentage point increase in unemployment—a common measure of economic health—is associated with an 11% to 12% increase in forfeiture activity.

“Law enforcement representatives have argued that any civil liberties intrusions from forfeiture are justified because the revenue helps fight crime, but the evidence does not support this”, said Dr. Brian Kelly, associate professor of economics at Seattle University and the study’s author. “In fact, the focus on bringing in revenue may well detract from efforts to fight serious, violent crimes.”

...

The scale of forfeiture is vast, with states and the federal government raking in at least $68.8 billion since 2000. With not all states providing complete data, this figure drastically undercounts property taken from people through forfeiture. The five states studied in “Does Forfeiture Work?” are among those that provide the most data, making this analysis possible.

...

“This is more powerful evidence that lawmakers across the country need to prioritize ending civil forfeiture and replacing it with criminal forfeiture,” said Lee McGrath, IJ’s senior legislative nutjob. “For years, law enforcement has maintained, on the basis of mere anecdotes, that forfeiture is essential to crime fighting and combating drug abuse. Lawmakers can ensure law enforcement is focused on public safety by removing the incentives to police for profit.”

...

 

It's not just the police. Politicians who created this looting system (still looking at you, President Biden) made and continue to make the same claims.

I fear that the lesson learned here will be: don't share information that can be used to analyze forfeiture results.

The nutjobs at IJ are onto that too, it seems.

In Precedent-Setting Decision, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Shines Light on Controversial Forfeiture Records
 

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Today, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck a blow for transparency and good government when it ruled that the names of successful bidders at public auctions of property seized and forfeited by law enforcement are public records that must be disclosed. Today’s ruling is a victory for the LNP | LancasterOnline and its reporter, Carter Walker, who sought the records as part of an investigation into the civil forfeiture practices of the Lancaster County District Attorney. In 2019, Carter and LNP teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to defend the requests after then-District Attorney Craig Stedman challenged them in court.

“Today’s ruling is a win for transparency and the right of Pennsylvanians to know what happens when law enforcement takes property,” said IJ Nutjob Kirby West. “This victory means Carter and LNP will now be able to shed light on forfeiture practices and hold officials accountable in Lancaster County. And it will allow other members of the media and the public throughout Pennsylvania to request similar records to uncover forfeiture abuses in their own communities.”

...

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and it is nowhere needed more than in Pennsylvania. From 2002 to 2018, Pennsylvania law enforcement forfeited $279 million in property. And reports from other counties within the Commonwealth show that law enforcement officers have used their position and inside knowledge to purchase forfeited property sold at auction for their own financial gain. The loose laws surrounding forfeiture in the Commonwealth led IJ to bring a massive class-action to end the practice in Philadelphia. And by allowing the disclosure of the names of successful bidders, today’s ruling from the Commonwealth Court ensures that citizens throughout Pennsylvania will be able to hold law enforcement accountable for similar abuses of power.

 

Gee, what a coincidence that the cops who do the looting wind up being winning bidders at loot auctions!

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Judge Threatens to Jail North Carolina Town Officials for Seizing Man's Money, Refusing To Return It
 

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...

According to media reports from the Mooresville Tribune and news station WSOCTV, Jermaine Sanders was staying at a hotel in the town in November when he left his room and found police searching his car. Police say they found half an ounce of marijuana and $16,761 in cash. They seized both, charged Sanders with misdemeanor drug possession, but then sent the cash to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

When Sanders lawyered up and attempted to fight to get the cash back, claiming that the money had no relationship to the crime involved, Mooresville responded that it was no longer in possession of the cash and therefore was not responsible for giving the money back.

...

This did not sit well with Underwood, and according to Sanders' lawyer, Ashley Cannon, Mooresville officials cut a cashier's check for the cash to send it to CBP just one day before the judge ruled against the town and ordered it to return the money.

But the city did not. And so, several months later, on Feb. 10, the case came back to Underwood, and she held up the previous ruling and ordered Mooresville to "give this man his money." She found the city in contempt of her order and is giving them seven business days to comply.

...

The involvement of the federal government here may seem strange for anybody unfamiliar with civil asset forfeiture, but there's an explanation. North Carolina actually has strict restrictions on the police's ability to make somebody forfeit cash and assets in criminal cases. Under state law, prosecutors have to convict somebody of a crime before being able to take their assets in most cases, and the police don't get the money. It all gets shunted over to the schools. Therefore, this should eliminate the incentive for police to exaggerate cases (or just lie) to create a reason to seize somebody's cash or property.

But, there's a big federal loophole, and that's why CBP is involved. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) "Equitable Sharing Program" allows local law enforcement agencies to "partner" with federal agencies for crime-fighting programs, funnel the seized assets through either the DOJ or the Department of the Treasury, and then send a share of the money back from the feds to towns, bypassing North Carolina's restrictions on asset forfeiture. Mooresville may not have Sanders' cash right now, but eventually, under the federal program, a chunk of that money would be returned to Mooresville Police Department.

...

 

I'm glad there's a judge standing up to drug war looters but the looters are appealing the decision and could very well prevail on appeal. Her ruling seems to me to suggest that the Equitable Sharing Program is an illegal workaround. The problem is, it's not. It's a legal workaround. I'll be surprised if the appeal results in Jermaine Sanders getting his money back.

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On 5/22/2020 at 9:43 PM, Pedagogical Tom said:

We Can't Stop The Looting Because We Need The Money
 

Quote

 

...

when the full House voted on Thursday afternoon, all 29 Democrats, plus 8 Republicans, voted against the legislation.

The partisan politics of asset forfeiture are not exactly cut and dried. In most states where reforms have passed, many Democrats support them in order to stop police from targeting minorities and the poor; other Dems side with police and prosecutors. Conversely, some Republicans support reforms, citing the abandonment of due process and the violation of people's property rights. But again, some Republicans take the other side.

What's extremely unusual is for all the Democrats to vote against a forfeiture reform bill, especially after the same legislation passed out of the Senate unanimously. In their explanation for why they voted no, a couple of legislators said the quiet part loud: The pandemic is hurting government budgets, and they don't want to give up the revenue.

Rep. Kirsten Engel (D–Tucson) said that she understands that asset forfeiture abuse occurs but—in the words of the Arizona Capitol Times—"she could not support such a change without also finding a way to ensure that counties have the money they need. She said the state is in no position to do that now, partly because it already has adopted a budget for the coming fiscal year and partly because the COVID-19 pandemic is going to slash anticipated state revenues by $1 billion or more." In other words, she wants to use civil forfeiture to finance police departments even if it means the disadvantaged get the blunt end of the stick.

Another lawmaker, Diego Rodriguez (D–Phoenix), said that the money from asset forfeiture proceedings also helps fund public defenders, so cutting that financial stream might cause county supervisors to cut funding for those offices. Paul Avelar, managing nutjob for the Institute for Justice's Arizona office, tells Reason that asset forfeiture money does not, in fact, pay for public defenders in Arizona. Indeed, regulations around forfeiture funds actually prohibit the money from going to anybody but law enforcement.

...

 

Engel did later figure out that her "we can't stop looting because we need the money" line wasn't politically popular and went back to the usual (and false) justifications.

Renewed efforts in Arizona to require a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture.

"We cant' stop looting because we need the money" was an unsatisfying answer to me and I hope there's a different answer this year.

 

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Indiana Senate Endorses More Looting

This time around the stupid drug war is not the source of the move to expand looting powers. They seem to want to loot BLM and/or antifa people engaged in "unlawful assembly." I guess it could be used against people participating in a nincomcoup, or pretty much any group of 5 or more who have something that police would like to seize.
 

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The Indiana Senate on Tuesday voted 37-8 to pass a bill that would give the government broad powers to seize assets from people suspected of "unlawful assembly," which, under state law, is defined as "an assembly of five (5) or more persons whose common object is to commit an unlawful act, or a lawful act by unlawful means."

If that sounds hazy, that's because it is—perhaps intentionally so. "The one thing we know is that vague laws are often enforced as broadly as they possibly can be," says Sam Gedge, a nutjob at the legal nonprofit Institute for Justice, "and civil forfeiture is often enforced as much as it can be because the government stands to profit."

...

The measure is part of a larger Senate package meant to bring the hammer down on violent riots, upping penalties for some of the inexcusable methods of protest employed over the summer in response to the police killing of George Floyd. It should go without saying that destroying or burning down businesses in your community should never be an appropriate response to racial injustice. Property rights are human rights, and many businesses that met their demise last summer were owned by the very people protesters claimed to stand for. 

But why civil forfeiture would be an appropriate response belies the imagination. Foremost: It is already illegal to riot, already illegal to obstruct traffic, already illegal to commit arson, already illegal to burglarize. Under the Indiana Senate bill, for instance, rioting transitions from a Class A misdemeanor to a level six felony, meaning perpetrators would spend up to 2.5 years in prison and pay up to a $50,000 fine. People who commit those crimes will be prosecuted and punished accordingly.

Unlawful assembly is also already a crime. As mentioned above, however, it's much more nebulous, as it gives police the power to arrest people should they be in a big enough group and look sketchy enough to state actors. According to the bill, law enforcement would have the latitude to initiate "civil forfeiture of property that is used by a person to finance a crime committed by a person who is a member of an unlawful assembly."

...

 

 

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In excessive fine news,

A City Charged This Woman More Than $100,000 for Parking on Her Own Property

 

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Sandy Martinez has a car. So do her two adult children and her sister. When all four cars were parked at Martinez's home in Lantana, Florida, two of them sometimes extended slightly beyond the driveway, which is flanked by her lawn and a walkway. Because that violation of Lantana's municipal code is punishable by a fine of $250 per day, the city is demanding more than $100,000 from her, plus another $63,500 for cracks in the driveway and a fence that was blown over in a storm.

In a lawsuit that Martinez filed today with help from the Institute for Justice, she argues that such an enormous bill for trivial code violations—amounting to nearly four times her annual income—runs afoul of Florida's constitution. "The government cannot lock you into a lifetime of debt and cripple you financially for minor infractions that do not threaten health or safety," says Institute for Justice nutjob Ari Bargil. "Florida's Constitution forbids fines that are 'excessive' or 'shock the conscience.' And that's exactly how to describe six-figure fines for petty violations—unconscionable."

...

 

I guess Sandy Martinez is lucky she lives in Lantana. As Mr. Ficken learned up thread, it's $500/day in Dunedin.

 

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On 2/20/2021 at 4:56 AM, Pedagogical Tom said:

Renewed efforts in Arizona to require a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture.

"We cant' stop looting because we need the money" was an unsatisfying answer to me and I hope there's a different answer this year.

 

Looks like a better answer may come out of Arizona this year. TeamD resistance to reform seems to have (mostly) crumbled this time around.
 

Quote

 

...On Wednesday, Arizona's House of Representatives passed H.B. 2810 by a vote of 57–2. The bill mostly eliminates civil asset forfeiture, mandating that police and prosecutors convict defendants before asking a court to take their money or other property.

...

In 2020, a Republican state senator attempted to change the law to require a conviction first. His bill sailed through the state Senate than hit a bizarre snag in the House of Representatives: Democratic lawmakers opposed it, even though the targets of civil asset forfeiture abuse are often poor people and immigrants who lack the resources to fight back. Some of them said outright that police agencies needed the revenue amid the budget crisis caused by COVID-19 disruptions.

Now that states are getting more of a handle on COVID-19, lawmakers seemed more willing to consider the bill. H.B. 2810 is also sponsored by a Republican—Travis Grantham—but the Democrats are not resisting it this time. (Well, most of them aren't. Both "no" votes were Democrats: Reps. Jennifer Pawlik and Judy Schwiebert.)

The bill now goes to the Senate, which approved last year's incarnation of the legislation.

 

 

 

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Overdue Process in Massachusetts
 

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On March 4, 2015, police in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, seized Malinda Harris' 2011 Infiniti G37 because her son, Trevice, was suspected of selling drugs. Although Harris had let Trevice borrow her car, the cops never alleged that he used it for drug dealing or that she knew about her son's illegal activity. Harris heard nothing more about her purloined property until October 2020, more than five years after the seizure, when she was served with a civil forfeiture complaint that had been prepared the previous January.

In a state court motion filed last week, Harris argues that the unconscionable delay in giving her a chance to recover it was a due process violation that by itself justifies its immediate return. Massachusetts invites such abuse, she says, because its civil forfeiture law "does not provide any deadline [by] which the Commonwealth is required to initiate forfeiture proceedings."

...

According to the Institute for Justice, Massachusetts "has the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country." Massachusetts is the only state to earn an F in the latest edition of the organization's Policing for Profit report. It is not hard to see why.

...

Even attempting to recover seized property requires hiring a lawyer, which costs thousands of dollars, a bill that in this case easily could have exceeded the market value of Harris' car. Since the Goldwater Institute is representing her for free, she does not have to worry about that obstacle, but most forfeiture victims are not so lucky. Since the value of seized property is typically less than the cost of trying to get it back, it usually makes more sense just to give up.

Even when a Massachusetts property owner can afford a lawyer, he cannot do anything until the government notifies him that it is proceeding with the forfeiture, which in this case happened 68 months after the seizure. "The Commonwealth has offered no justification for why it took almost five years to file this suit or another 10 months to serve it," Silverman says. "This lengthy, unexplained delay deprived Harris of due process and requires that the Complaint be dismissed."

More generally, Massachusetts "does not dictate that owners be provided prompt,
post-seizure hearings to challenge, among other things, the validity of the seizure and the continued retention of the property pending the forfeiture proceeding's final outcome," Silverman says. "This omission creates too big of a risk of erroneous deprivation."

And did I mention that the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force, which seized Harris' Infiniti, and the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office, which is pursuing the forfeiture, get to keep all the proceeds from selling the car? That financial incentive, Silverman says, also violates due process, because it creates a "temptation to overzealously pursue forfeiture cases." It also encourages police to prioritize profit above public safety.

...

 

Prosecutors and police do zealously defend their right to loot and their union$ $peak fondly of it, but really none of it could happen without politicians who make these rules. But it is apparently a good way to get elected President, so there's that.

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14 minutes ago, Pedagogical Tom said:

Overdue Process in Massachusetts
 

Prosecutors and police do zealously defend their right to loot and their union$ $peak fondly of it, but really none of it could happen without politicians who make these rules. But it is apparently a good way to get elected President, so there's that.

https://georgiastarnews.com/2021/01/21/georgia-general-assembly-will-soon-examine-civil-asset-forfeiture-laws/

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23 hours ago, hasher said:


 

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This bill, the Due Process in Civil Forfeiture Act, would increase the burden of proof for the government in civil forfeiture proceedings. The bill would also provide people with public defenders during civil forfeiture proceedings in certain criminal cases.

This, according to the language of the bill on the Georgia General Assembly’s website.

The state’s burden of proof shall be to show by clear and convincing evidence that seized property is subject to forfeiture,” according to the bill.

“There shall be a rebuttable presumption that any property of a person is subject to forfeiture under this chapter if the state attorney establishes by clear and convincing evidence that (1) The person has engaged in conduct giving rise to forfeiture; (2) The property was acquired by the person during the period of the conduct giving rise to forfeiture or within a reasonable time after such period; and (3) There was no likely source for the property other than the conduct giving rise to forfeiture.”  

 

A conviction for said conduct would be a form of "clear and convincing evidence" to me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In excessive fines and fees news,

Washington Supreme Court to Hear Significant Excessive Fines Case
 

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...

The case concerns Steven Long, who was forced to live in his truck after losing his home. The truck, which did not work properly, was parked in a secluded gravel lot owned by the city. In 2016, Seattle police were dispatched to the area for an unrelated complaint. While there, police ticketed Long for parking in one spot for more than 72 hours. A few days later, a private towing company that contracted with the city towed his truck, leaving Long to sleep on the streets. He was eventually fined $44 and charged $547 for the cost of impounding his truck. He appealed the impound charge to the Seattle Municipal Court, which found the charge to be an unconstitutionally excessive fine. The King County Superior Court agreed, and the city sought review before the Washington Court of Appeals. That court reversed the Superior Court. Long appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case earlier this year.

...

The case concerns Steven Long, who was forced to live in his truck after losing his home. The truck, which did not work properly, was parked in a secluded gravel lot owned by the city. In 2016, Seattle police were dispatched to the area for an unrelated complaint. While there, police ticketed Long for parking in one spot for more than 72 hours. A few days later, a private towing company that contracted with the city towed his truck, leaving Long to sleep on the streets. He was eventually fined $44 and charged $547 for the cost of impounding his truck. He appealed the impound charge to the Seattle Municipal Court, which found the charge to be an unconstitutionally excessive fine. The King County Superior Court agreed, and the city sought review before the Washington Court of Appeals. That court reversed the Superior Court. Long appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case earlier this year.

One of the most significant issues before the Washington Supreme Court is whether a court must consider the individual circumstances of an offender in determining whether a particular fine is excessive. In its briefing before the Supreme Court, the city argues that so long as the government approves the amount of the fine and it reflects the cost of enforcement, it can impose that fine on an indigent person.

“The city’s position is essentially that there is no difference between imposing a fine of $547 on a homeless individual living in a truck or imposing it on Bill Gates,” said Bill Maurer, the Managing Nutjob of the Seattle office of the Institute for Justice (IJ), which represented Tyson Timbs in the U.S. Supreme Court case that bears his name. “But the purpose of the Excessive Fines Clause is to prevent the government from pushing a defendant to the wall. There is no way to prevent that unless the courts consider the financial circumstances of a defendant.”

IJ filed a friend of the court brief supporting Long on its behalf as well as on behalf of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Oregon Law Center, Equal Justice Under Law, the Policy Advocacy Clinic of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, and the MacArthur Justice Center. The case is one of the first state supreme court cases in the country to address the contours of the Excessive Fines Clause. The only other state supreme courts in the country to consider the issue post-Timbs—Indiana and Colorado—have both concluded that courts must consider a defendant’s circumstances in determining whether a penalty is unconstitutionally excessive.

...

 

The Berkeley lawyer listed on the amicus brief is a "Clinical Professor of Law." Huh? Clinical?

Anyway, it's an interesting case. Both sides have a good point. If the fine/fee for having your car towed and impounded is $547, it's $547 for everybody. OTOH, that starts to look excessive in the case of a homeless man like Steven Long. OTOOH, the towing and impounding is likely done by a private company and someone should pay that company.

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and in drug war looters with hands in the till news,

Two California Cops Charged With Extorting Cash and Marijuana From Motorists
 

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...

In an unsealed criminal complaint filed on March 9, federal prosecutors for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of California say two former drug interdiction officers for the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, Brendon Jacy Tatum and Joseph Huffaker, conspired to extort "at least $3,700 in cash and 60 pounds of marijuana with a value of at least $85,000." 

In 2017, the officers seized cash and marijuana from at least six people without issuing citations, documenting the traffic stops, or submitting the seized property to the department, according to body camera footage and records reviewed by federal investigators. Prosecutors also allege Tatum failed to report at least $443,059 in cash deposits on his 2016 taxes, "for which there is probable cause to believe were derived from his extortion scheme."

...

In addition to heading the department's interdiction team, Tatum supervised its asset forfeiture program.

...

In the criminal complaint against Tatum and Huffaker, federal prosecutors note that Tatum didn't create an incident report for the seizure of Flatten's marijuana until several months after it occurred, after he was alerted to the impending news coverage. Tatum issued a press release to justify the seizure, but he ended up confusing Flatten's traffic stop with another marijuana seizure that he had failed to document.

...

Federal prosecutors say Tatum also made cash deposits under $10,000 to cover his tracks, an illegal tactic known as "structuring." In one instance, though, he tried to deposit roughly $10,300 in cash, and after realizing it would trigger a mandatory transaction report, asked for $1,000 back. The bank teller immediately reported him.

While leading the interdiction team, Tatum received national and local recognition for his work. According to the criminal complaint, he seized more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana, 20 firearms, a dozen vehicles, and more than $4,000,000.

 

Sounds like he supervised hell out of that program.

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Urgent Need for Civil Forfeiture Reform
 

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Dear Chairman Nadler, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Jordan, and Ranking Member Grassley,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations dedicated to the protection of civil liberties and property rights, we urge Congress to curb law enforcement’s power to use and abuse the practice of civil forfeiture by enacting strong reforms this Congress.

...

Sincerely,

Institute for Justice

American Civil Liberties Union

American Commitment

Americans for Prosperity

Campaign for Liberty

DKT Liberty Project

Drug Policy Alliance

Due Process Institute

FreedomWorks

Goldwater Institute

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National Motorists Association

National Taxpayers Union

R Street Institute

 

That's a pretty diverse group.

I've seen no indication that this Congress is inclined to put the brakes on the drug war loot gravy train, but hey, they might as well shoot for the stars and ask.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/3/2020 at 7:13 AM, Shambolic Tom said:
On 3/5/2020 at 8:31 AM, Cacoethesic Tom said:
On 1/18/2020 at 5:45 AM, Plenipotentiary Tom said:

More on the case of Terrence Rolin and his daughter, Rebecca Brown, who was flying with $82k in cash.

Good news for Mr. Rolin and Ms. Brown

...

It's too bad that they couldn't find credible legal representation, but at least the result was good.

Expand  

They got the money back but are still participating in the class action lawsuit filed by meddlesome Koch-$pon$ored nutjobs.

The class action suit involving Rolin and Brown survived the routine motion to dismiss.
 

Quote

 

When travelers go online to find out whether it is legal to fly with cash, the government tells them that there are no restrictions on traveling with any amount of money on domestic flights. What it does not tell flyers is that, upon seeing cash, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners will detain them and turn them over to law enforcement, who will take their money without any cause for suspicion and without filing any criminal charges. Now, a Fourth Amendment, class action lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice (IJ) to end these unconstitutional practices by the TSA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will move forward in federal court after a judge rejected the government’s motion to dismiss.

“TSA and DEA routinely violate Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights at airports across the country by detaining them for doing something completely legal: flying with cash,” said IJ Senior Nutjob Dan Alban. “Seizing and forfeiting someone’s savings should not be done lightly, yet we’ve documented how easy it is for law enforcement to take money at airports without any evidence of a crime. Now, thanks to our class action lawsuit, we are going to uncover the truth behind how and why the government is targeting innocent flyers, and ultimately put an end to this predatory practice.”

...

“TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional conduct across the country suggests that the agencies are more interested in seizing cash than securing safety,” said IJ Nutjob Jaba Tsitsuashvili. “And these seizures subject people to a confusing bureaucratic process, without an attorney provided, where a single misstep could mean losing their life savings forever. Even those who succeed in getting their money returned are deprived of it for months or years, often upending their lives. No one should lose their money without a criminal conviction.”

...

 

Surviving a motion to dismiss is easy, basically you have to convince a judge that the case might possibly have some merit. Still, it's a step in the right direction. The case was filed in January of last year so took a while to get to this point. OTOH, noted heroin kingpin Tyson Timbs' vehicle was seized in 2015 and he just got it back last year. So the wheels grind slowly on...

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On 3/2/2021 at 9:14 PM, Shambolic Tom said:

Looks like a better answer may come out of Arizona this year. TeamD resistance to reform seems to have (mostly) crumbled this time around.
 

Or maybe amendments demanded by looting cops will gut the reform.
 

Quote

 

...

HB 2810 was approved by the House on a 57-2 vote and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill 8-0. But law enforcement agencies sprang a last-second amendment demand that would gut the reforms and has prevented the bill from receiving a final vote. Among the amendments demanded are:

  • Allowing the use of “waivers” to circumvent the conviction requirement;
  • eliminating the conviction requirement in any case involving cash, bank accounts, etc. of more than $10,000; and
  • limiting the time in which a person can ask for a hearing to get their property back.

Jerry’s case demonstrates how people can lose their money to forfeiture even when they are never charged with any crime. If these amendments to HB 2810 are made, they would perversely encourage Arizona law enforcement to pressure property owners to sign on-the-spot “waivers,” and create a loophole in the conviction requirement, which would not apply to cases like Jerry’s that involve seizures of more than $10,000. Jerry’s story could become distressingly common if these amendments are allowed.

 

 

 

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More on the looting of Jerry Johnson's money
 

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...

“Jerry Johnson did nothing wrong by flying to Phoenix with cash, yet law enforcement is trying to keep his money without ever charging him with a crime,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban. “In Arizona, prosecutors are required to prove through clear and convincing evidence that money is connected to criminal activity before the property can be forfeited. But instead of holding the state to its burden of proving guilt, the court required Jerry to prove his own innocence. If the result in Jerry’s case stands, it would create a dangerous loophole, undermining Arizona’s efforts to protect property owners.”

Jerry Johnson owns a small trucking company, lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, and was looking to purchase a third truck for his fleet. After finding the model of a Peterbilt semi-truck he had been looking for at the Phoenix location of Ritchie Bros. auto auction, he scraped together his savings, borrowed money from family and purchased an airline ticket. Hoping to cut the best possible deal on the truck, Jerry brought $39,500 in cash with him, splitting it between his carry-on and checked luggage.

When Jerry collected his checked luggage, he was met by Phoenix airport police, who questioned him, searched his bags and accused him of laundering money for drugs. As is often the case, Transportation Security Administration luggage screeners apparently alerted Phoenix police to the presence of cash in Jerry’s luggage. Jerry was interrogated and told that unless he signed a “Disclaimer of Ownership” form, he would be arrested. Not fully understanding that the form said he was surrendering his ownership of his money, Jerry signed this on-the-spot “waiver” under duress, believing he would be arrested and sent to jail if he refused.

“I flew to Phoenix thinking I could get a good deal on a truck that would allow me to expand my business,” said Jerry. “But instead, the police took my money without ever charging me with a crime. It’s been a struggle to lose my savings, and now my business is barely getting by. I’m fighting for my money, but I’m also fighting because this should never happen to anyone else.”

...

 

Signing the waiver probably seemed like an easy way out at the time, not so much now.

"OK, so arrest me, I'm not signing" would have been a better response. Among other benefits, it would immediately raise the question: arrest him for what? There was no evidence of any crime, nor has any emerged since.

 

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On 12/2/2020 at 9:00 PM, Excoded Tom said:

The Serrano saga continues. Past-due process?

Case Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court Seeks to Ensure Prompt Hearings After Property Seizures
 

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Does due process require a prompt hearing after the government seizes a vehicle through civil forfeiture?  That is the question the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will consider addressing in Serrano v. Customs and Border Patrol, a lawsuit appealed by the Institute for Justice (IJ) on behalf of its client, Gerardo Serrano, who had his new truck taken from him at the Mexican border in 2015.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) didn’t like that Gerardo took photos at the border, which he planned to share on social media with relatives in Mexico to let them know he would see them soon.  Two agents objected and, after stopping Gerardo’s truck, physically removed him from it, took possession of his phone, and repeatedly demanded the password.  Gerardo, a staunch believer in civil liberties who has run for elected office on a platform of respect for constitutional rights, suggested that the agents obtain a warrant.  The border agents responded by telling Gerardo they were “sick of hearing about [ ] rights.”  In retaliation, they went through his new Ford pickup with a fine-tooth comb searching for any excuse to seize his vehicle.  They found five low-caliber bullets, which they absurdly called “munitions of war,” and used them as an excuse to take his vehicle.  (There was no gun in the vehicle.)  For the next two years, despite Gerardo’s repeated requests, the government never gave him his day in court to prove his vehicle’s innocence or to force the government to justify its actions before a judge.

Shortly after Gerardo filed a class-action lawsuit against the CBP (Serrano v. Customs and Border Patrol), the agency tried to moot Gerardo’s case by returning the vehicle.  But the trial court held that the case was not moot—as Gerardo could move forward with class-action claims on behalf of all U.S. citizens who have had vehicles seized at the border—and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.  Still, having rejected the government’s attempt to moot the case, both courts held that due process does not require government to provide a prompt post-seizure hearing after seizing automobiles.  That ruling is now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In the criminal context, after the government arrests you, it must hold a probable cause hearing shortly after the arrest—even if the criminal trial follows later,” said Rob Johnson, an IJ nutjob.  “We are saying the government must provide the same kind of prompt hearing after it takes your property.”

...

 

Expand  

The petition notes a circuit court split on this issue, with then-Judge Sotomayor among those who have said that prompt post seizure hearings are required.

The Supreme Court does not wish to hear from noted international arms smuggler Gerardo Serrano
 

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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case that would have forced the government to fix one of the most basic and outrageous abuses in civil forfeiture: the inability of property owners to have their day in court shortly after their property is seized by police. As the result of this abuse, property owners routinely wait for months or years before they finally see a judge and have a chance to get back what the government took from them without charging, let alone convicting them of a crime.

...

both the trial court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a failure to provide U.S. citizens with an opportunity to challenge the seizure of their cars does not constitute a violation of Due Process. This ran contrary to what other circuit courts have held, so Gerardo and IJ asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue, but the Court refused to do.

“This is no doubt very disappointing” said Rob Johnson, an IJ senior nutjob who led the certiorari effort before the U.S. Supreme Court. “But we are not done fighting. According to the Supreme Court precedent, the history of this country, and the basic norms of decency, the government cannot take your car without providing you with a prompt opportunity to challenge the seizure. This issue will continue knocking on the Supreme Court’s door.”

“When the agents seized my truck, I couldn’t believe it was happening to me,” said Gerardo Serrano. “And now I’m back in the Twilight Zone, thinking this can’t be real. How can the courts just ignore this? And how can an ordinary person afford to wait years after the government takes their car?”

...

While lengthy delays are common in most civil forfeiture cases, the problem is particularly acute when government seizes property at the border. Although federal law generally requires the government to file a forfeiture case within 150 days of a seizure, even that lengthy deadline does not apply to customs seizures. That loophole is sometimes referred to as the “customs carve-out.”

“Particularly now that the Supreme Court has declined to act, Congress needs to step up,” said IJ Nutjob Anya Bidwell. “Congress needs to close the customs carve-out, and Congress needs to enact comprehensive civil forfeiture reform.”

...

 

Not holding my breath waiting for Congress to leap into action. Most critters have Presidential ambitions and writing these stupid laws, not repealing them, seems to be the path to the Presidency. Worked for Biden, anyway.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/22/2020 at 5:10 AM, Excoded Tom said:
On 7/11/2019 at 5:18 AM, Quotidian Tom said:

Couple of updates on the lawn moving front.

Mr. Ficken's lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss back in April
 

$30,000 in fines plus foreclosure upheld as penalty for Mr. Ficken's tall grass.
 

Quote

 

...

The fines at issue stem from a two-month period in the summer of 2018, while Jim was in South Carolina tending to his late mother’s estate.

“I was out of town when code enforcement officials first noticed my grass was too tall,” Ficken said. “They came back almost every day to record the violation, but never notified me that I was on the hook for fines. By the time I found out, I owed them tens of thousands of dollars. Then, they refused to reduce the fines and voted to authorize the foreclosure of my home. I am disappointed that the court sided with Dunedin, but what happened to me is wrong, and I will continue to fight.”

“The city’s behavior toward Jim is outrageous,” said IJ Nutjob Ari Bargil. “This ruling emboldens code enforcement departments across the state to impose crippling financial penalties and it empowers them to do so without first notifying a property owner that they are potentially going to be fined.”

...

 

It does make you wonder how much worse a fine would have to be to be considered excessive.

 

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Song of Myself


The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

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On 4/9/2021 at 6:02 AM, Excoded Tom said:
On 3/2/2021 at 9:14 PM, Shambolic Tom said:

Looks like a better answer may come out of Arizona this year. TeamD resistance to reform seems to have (mostly) crumbled this time around.
 

Or maybe amendments demanded by looting cops will gut the reform.

Or maybe not.

Arizona Governor Signs Important Forfeiture Reform Bill
 

Quote

 

HB 2810 makes five important reforms:

  • Requires a conviction in criminal court to forfeit property in civil court in most instances. Similar requirements are found in 15 other states;
  • Restores the presumption of innocence by requiring the government to show that owners are not innocent before taking their property. Similar requirements are found in 13 other states and the district of Columbia;
  • Bans officers from coercing owners to waive or relinquish their rights to property. Similar requirements are found in three other states;
  • Abolishes “non-judicial” forfeiture, a process that allows law enforcement to forfeit property without the case ever going before a judge; and
  • Creates a prompt, post-deprivation hearing for owners to request the return of their property.

Despite widespread recognition that forfeiture is being abused and bipartisan support for reforms, reforms have faced stiff opposition from well-organized law enforcement groups. Tellingly, some of these groups have admitted that funding concerns drive their resistance to reforms.

 

 

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Alabama Legislature Passes Modest Asset Forfeiture Reforms
 

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The Alabama legislature passed a compromise bill on Monday to curtail asset forfeiture. Although it was significantly scaled back to appease law enforcement, civil liberties advocates still say that it is a step in the right direction.

The Alabama House passed Senate Bill 210, sending it to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey's desk. The bill would limit law enforcement seizures of cash to more than $250 and vehicles worth more than $5,000, among other provisions.

The legislation is the result of three years of work by state legislators and advocacy groups to rein in civil asset forfeiture in Alabama, which has among the laxest rules in the country for when police and prosecutors can seize people's property. The Institute for Justice, a nutjob-leaning public interest law firm, gave Alabama a "D-" grade for its civil forfeiture laws.

The original bill was much stronger and included provisions that would have required a conviction to forfeit property, essentially eliminating civil asset forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to seize property even when the owner is not charged with a crime.

But the conviction requirement and other measures were ultimately stripped from the bill to avoid the ire of the powerful law enforcement lobby, which had scuttled previous incarnations of the legislation.

"This bill is a start, but it doesn't go far enough," says Leah Nelson, research director at the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, an advocacy group that supports civil forfeiture reform.

Nelson says the legislation would still do some important things, such as improve protections for innocent owners and ban police from using roadside waivers, which have been used by police in other states to essentially coerce people into forfeiting their property. 

However, Nelson says, the dollar-amount thresholds for cash and vehicles are still far too low to protect the majority of people whose property is taken from them. 

...

 

That should bring them up into D+ or C- territory.

The bolded part shows that it is not, and never was, about "drug kingpins." $250 just isn't "kingpin" money.

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On 4/29/2021 at 9:17 AM, Olsonist said:

Song of Myself


The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

I dunno about that, but Tom's in Florida so I doubt he wears the bottoms of his trousers rolled

- DSK

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  • 3 weeks later...

In excessive fines and fees news, when is $3 excessive?
 

Quote

 

...

Interestingly, for those who think the current concern with fines and fees reflects a pretty recent phenomenon, one judge who joined the unanimous Harrison opinion wrote separately to highlight court fees as a general barrier to justice at that time, and quoted extensively from a recent report by the National Conference of State Court Administrators. In that discussion the judge mentioned other fees that might pose a constitutional problem, including a three dollar fee assessed on Missouri litigants which helps pay for sheriff pensions.

It took a while, but 35 years later it was that sheriff-pension fee that was before the court in Fowler v. Missouri Sheriff’s Retirement System, and for which the court issued its decision yesterday (June 1, 2021). Parties in Missouri cases had to pay three dollars so that sheriffs had a better retirement. A couple citizens who had paid the fee as part of their speeding tickets sued. Following Harrison, the court said there was a “bright-line rule” that fees could not go toward compensation for executive branch officials and therefore the fee wasn’t “reasonably related to the expense of the administration of justice.”

The ruling may only mean three dollars for each plaintiff, but the case is a class action that, after it’s remanded, could extend to millions of dollars in fees going back years. And that’s a drop in the bucket compared with all the other fees charged across the country that aren’t “reasonably related” to providing justice.

...

 

 

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On 5/27/2020 at 9:24 PM, Excoded Tom said:

Looks like no suitable "emergency" could be conjured up and noted heroin dealer Tyson Timbs finally got his car back.

tyson-timbs-1200x675.jpg
 

Quote

 

...

Although the Indiana Attorney General is still appealing Timbs' case at the Indiana Supreme Court—the third time the court has been asked to consider the tangled case of Timbs' SUV—his car has been returned for the moment, according to the Institute for Justice, a nutjob-leaning public interest law firm that represents Timbs and has challenged forfeiture laws in several states. 

"For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits," Tyson said in a press release. "To me, the State's refusal to give back my car has never made sense; if they're trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my parole officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work? Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and be contributing members of society."

Last February, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Eighth Amendment and its protections against excessive fines and fees applied to states. "For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the Court's opinion. The ruling opened up a new avenue for plaintiffs like Timbs trying to challenge asset forfeiture in court.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on what constituted an "excessive" fine. It kicked that question back to the Indiana Supreme Court, which created a three-prong test last October to determine when a government fine or seizure is disproportionate to the alleged offense. The Indiana Supreme Court in turn sent Timbs' case back to a state trial court to be reconsidered.

In April, an Indiana judge ruled that, under the new test, the seizure of Timbs' Land Rover—"a tool essential to maintaining employment, obtaining treatment, and reducing the likelihood that he would ever again commit another criminal offense"—was unconstitutionally excessive and ordered the vehicle returned.

The Indiana Attorney General is now appealing that decision to the state supreme court, again.

"Tyson's case has gone through every level of the American judicial system—in some instances, twice," Institute for Justice senior nutjob Wesley Hottot said in a statement. "The state's relentless use of its forfeiture machine is—and continues to be—a profoundly unjust exercise of power, and it underscores that civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today."

 

Expand  Expand  

Well, at least he got it back for now. I hope the Indiana Supreme Court doesn't reverse this outcome on the coming appeal.

And it's finally, really over.

Victory for noted heroin kingpin Tyson Timbs

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Indiana man Tyson Timbs’s fight against civil forfeiture made national news in February 2019, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies not just to the federal government, but to the states as well. That decision established a rule of law for Americans nationwide. But it didn’t get Tyson his car back. The U.S. Supreme Court sent his case back to the Indiana Supreme Court. That court, in turn, sent the case back to the trial court, with instructions to decide anew whether taking Tyson’s vehicle was unconstitutionally excessive. The trial court ruled for Tyson last April. The State appealed yet again—bringing Tyson’s case before the Indiana Supreme Court for a third time. And this morning a majority of the Indiana Supreme Court ruled unequivocally in Tyson’s favor.

“Reminiscent of Captain Ahab’s chase of the white whale Moby Dick,” the court observed, “this case has wound its way from the trial court all the way to the United States Supreme Court and back again.” And after eight years of litigation, the court held that “Timbs met his high burden to show that the harshness of his Land Rover’s forfeiture was grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the underlying dealing offense and his culpability for the vehicle’s misuse.” The forfeiture violates the Excessive Fines Clause, the court concluded.

READ THE COURT’S OPINION

“For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits,” said Tyson. “The State’s refusal to give back my car has never made sense; if they’re trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my probation officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work? I hope that, finally, the government will move on and let me move on too.”

“Today’s ruling is an important victory for property rights across Indiana,” said Sam Gedge, an Institute for Justice (IJ) nutjob who represents Tyson. “As the Indiana Supreme Court correctly recognized, Indiana’s campaign to take Tyson’s car is just the sort of abusive forfeiture that the Excessive Fines Clause is designed to curtail. The State of Indiana has spent nearly a decade trying to confiscate a vehicle from a low-income recovering addict. No one should have to spend eight years fighting the government just to get back their car.”

 

 

 

 

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Fibbies Looting Safe Deposit Boxes

This story has been ongoing for a couple of months now, but the original justification for holding onto the contents of safe deposit boxes was custodial and it seemed they might give the loot back. Nope.
 

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"The silence is deafening," said attorney Jennifer Snitko, who briefly choked up on Thursday as she exited the West Los Angeles Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard, home to the FBI's area field office.

She'd just piled into a small interrogation room to meet with two agents. Rifling through a brown paper bag, she furnished a series of documents and items recently withdrawn from sterile bags marked EVIDENCE. None seemed more out of place than a folded, thin white paper with a cross. It was a baptismal certificate.

"Evidence of what?" asks her husband Paul Snitko.

They're still not sure. Jennifer wasn't there to defend a client. It was her and her husband in the hot seat, tasked with proving that they were worthy of retrieving a trove of deeply personal items that the FBI seized about three months ago—without a warrant—from the U.S. Private Vaults (USPV) in Beverly Hills, California.

Eric Boehm, who reported this story for Reason last month, notes that on March 22, law enforcement officials with the bureau raided the establishment as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the business itself. The warrant allowed agents to confiscate a laundry list of things: the company's security cameras, computers, the steel frames that nest the containers. Deemed off-limits: "a criminal search or seizure of the contents of the safe-deposit boxes."

The agents were unfazed. They did it anyway, wantonly rummaging through the personal property in approximately 800 boxes—belonging to people who were not suspected of committing any crimes—and then holding those items hostage. (If you feel like getting mad today, feel free to watch them in action.)

"Not only was my stuff taken without just cause…It was taken by my own government, and they were asking me to prove my innocence and subject myself to an investigation to get my stuff back, which was unlawfully taken to begin with, and had no evidentiary value."

Perhaps most pitiful is that the Snitkos are two of the lucky ones in this story. That word feels ill-fitting for anyone in their shoes. But while the FBI has acquiesced to giving select deposit boxes back, including the one owned by the Snitkos, they are refusing to surrender others, seeking instead to keep a collective $85 million in cash and an unspecified amount of gold, silver, and precious metals from unsuspecting people.

That includes Travis May, who stored gold and $63,000 in cash, and Joseph Ruiz, who had $57,000 in his box—his life savings, which he uses to pay his living and medical expenses, according to a recently amended lawsuit.

"After the government seized this property on March 22, 2021, [Ruiz] filed a claim with the FBI to retrieve it," notes the complaint from the Institute for Justice (IJ), a nutjob public interest law firm representing both men. "However, the government has informed attorneys for USPV that it intends to civilly forfeit Joseph's property. At this time, the government has not provided Joseph with any notice of the purported civil forfeiture proceeding."

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It appears agents at the West L.A. Federal Building care a great deal about their own privacy. A group of officers threatened to arrest me yesterday for waiting outside in the courtyard, where I posted up to take pictures of the Snitkos exiting the building. I needed a media permit, they said.

Yet parsing through the clients listed on the lawsuit, it's hard not to conclude that this is part of the federal government's war on privacy. It's also likely part of their war on cash tender. The FBI seemingly has little desire to hold onto baptismal certificates or personal documents, but when it comes to silver, gold, and cold hard cash, they suddenly have an interest. Should the government succeed, plaintiffs Jeni Verdon-Pearsons and Michael Storc, for instance, will forcibly donate their silver, though the suit notes that they, too, have not been provided with "the factual or legal basis for the purported civil forfeiture proceeding."

There's the obvious implication: The government wants the proceeds. But there's also the notion that carrying or storing large sums of money somehow incriminates you in the drug trade, evocative of the Department of Homeland Security's sordid record of habitually seizing large sums of cash from airport travelers.

"What happened in this case is just an absolute staggering Fourth Amendment violation," says Robert Johnson, a nutjob with IJ. "There was no probable cause to think any of the box holders committed a crime."

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More camera shy cops who don't understand that photography is not a crime. I still don't trust camera shy cops. Nor looting cops. Nor, especially, camera shy, looting cops.

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