FAIR Act to Reform Asset Seizure Laws

Pertinacious Tom

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Joseph Rivers had some money. Having money is suspicious, so the DEA took it. He might get some of it back if he can prove his money committed no crimes, not that proving a negative is hard or anything.

It happened, Rivers said, to him on April 15 as he was traveling on Amtrak from Dearborn, Mich., near his hometown of Romulus, Mich., to Los Angeles to fulfill his dream of making a music video. Rivers, in an email, said he had saved his money for years, and his mother and other relatives scraped together the rest of the $16,000.

Rivers said he carried his savings in cash because he has had problems in the past with taking out large sums of money from out-of-state banks.

A DEA agent boarded the train at the Albuquerque Amtrak station and began asking various passengers, including Rivers, where they were going and why. When Rivers replied that he was headed to LA to make a music video, the agent asked to search his bags. Rivers complied.

Rivers was the only passenger singled out for a search by DEA agents – and the only black person on his portion of the train, Pancer said.

In one of the bags, the agent found the cash, still in the Michigan bank envelope.

“I even allowed him to call my mother, a military veteran and (hospital) coordinator, to corroborate my story,” Rivers said. “Even with all of this, the officers decided to take my money because he stated that he believed that the money was involved in some type of narcotic activity.”

Rivers was left penniless, his dream deferred.

“These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me,” Rivers said in his email. “I told (the DEA agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that.”
As for whether Obama and Holder fixed all this...

...The practice has proven to be controversial. Earlier this year, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced measures restricting the use of some types of civil asset forfeiture. But as the Institute for Justice noted in a February report, these changes only affect a small percentage of forfeitures initiated by local law enforcement agencies, not federal ones like the DEA. About 90 percent of Justice Department seizures won't be affected at all.

Asset forfeiture is lucrative for the DEA. According to their latest notification of seized goods, updated Monday, agents have seized well over $38 million dollars' worth of cash and goods from people in the first few months of this year. Some of the goods may be directly related to ongoing criminal investigations, but most of them are not.

For instance, in fiscal year 2014 Justice Department agencies made a total of $3.9 billion in civil asset seizures, versus only $679 million in criminal asset seizures....
A few billion here, a few billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money. Of course they didn't kill the federal cash cow, just wounded state and local ones a bit.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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The IRS doesn't seem to want publicity about the Lyndon McLellan case, so it's good that Dabnis started a thread about it.

I think I'll go share this in a few other places...

...

“This case demonstrates that the federal government’s recent reforms are riddled with loopholes and exceptions and fundamentally fail to protect Americans’ basic rights,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Robert Everett Johnson, who represents Lyndon. “No American should have his property taken by the government without first being convicted of a crime.”

In February 2015, during a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means Oversight Subcommittee, North Carolina Congressman George Holding told IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that he had reviewed Lyndon’s case—without specifically naming it—and that there was no allegation of the kind of illegal activity required by the IRS’s new policy. The IRS Commissioner responded, “If that cases exists, then it’s not following the policy.”

Watch the exchange here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16aYGRoswWw

When news of the IRS Commissioner’s statement got back to the United States Attorney in charge of Lyndon’s case, he advised Lyndon’s attorney and accountant that he was “concerned” that Lyndon’s case document was provided to Congress, and that:

Whoever made [the document] public may serve their own interest but will not help this particular case. Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it. But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency. My offer is to return 50% of the money. The offer is good until March 30th COB.

...
 

Pertinacious Tom

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Even the vibrator?

When the cops raided Ginnifer Hency's home in Smiths Creek, Michigan, in July, "they took everything," she told state legislators last Tuesday, including TV sets, ladders, her children's cellphones and iPads, even her vibrator. They found six ounces of marijuana and arrested Hency for possession with intent to deliver, "even though I was fully compliant with the Michigan medical marijuana laws," which means "I am allowed to possess and deliver." Hency, a mother of four with multiple sclerosis, uses marijuana for pain relief based on her neurologist's recommendation. She also serves as a state-registered caregiver for five other patients.

Hency's compliance with state law explains why a St. Clair County judge dismissed the charges against her. But when she asked about getting back her property, she reported, "The prosecutor came out to me and said, 'Well, I can still beat you in civil court. I can still take your stuff.'" When she heard that, Hency said, "I was at a loss. I literally just sat there dumbfounded."
 

Pertinacious Tom

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State asset forfeiture laws ranking

ForfeitMap.png


 

Pertinacious Tom

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It's a lengthy and expensive nightmare. They leave off one of the more effective ways of fighting it: publicity.

Though only libertarians will touch this issue and Duopoly politicians are completely useless, the agencies involved know they look like thieves to the public if the public should happen to notice what's going on. They know it's not popular and backlash can spur Duopoly pols to a rare fit of action. So you make a lot of noise and suddenly your property doesn't seem anywhere near as guilty and you get it back.

 

Happy Jack

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It's a lengthy and expensive nightmare. They leave off one of the more effective ways of fighting it: publicity.

Though only libertarians will touch this issue and Duopoly politicians are completely useless, the agencies involved know they look like thieves to the public if the public should happen to notice what's going on. They know it's not popular and backlash can spur Duopoly pols to a rare fit of action. So you make a lot of noise and suddenly your property doesn't seem anywhere near as guilty and you get it back.
I'm curious why the supreme court has not stepped in. I gather they back down if a case ever gets near a federal court.

 
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Pertinacious Tom

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What happens when seized assets go to the seizing agency instead of the general fund?

Corruption happens.

An assistant district attorney in the state of Oklahoma lived rent-free in a house confiscated by local law enforcement under the practice of asset forfeiture. His office paid the utility bills. He remained there for five years, despite a court order to sell the house at auction.

Another district attorney used $5,000 worth of confiscated funds to pay back his student loans.

These are just a few of the gems unearthed during a recent hearing on Oklahoma authorities’ liberal use of asset forfeiture to take property from suspected criminals and spend it on personal enrichment. OklahomaWatch.org reports
 

Pertinacious Tom

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Here is how the doctrine of "guilty property" spreads:

Too simple.
A two token verification system.
Every person (immigrants, naturalized, whites, blacks, mexicans, everyone) wishing to work in the USA applies for a work permit. The US government verifies eligibility and issues a photo ID card with a verification number. Those persons cleared are added to a secure database.
Employers will be required to have the employee present the card when hired, the employer then verifies the encoded number with the secure database, probably online.
The two token eliminates fraud. If a card is replicated illegally, there will no corresponding record in the database and the verification fails.
Employers who employ unverified employees are subject to forfeiture of their business just as if they sold drugs to fund their operations.
Private citizens could also easily verify employment eligibility the same way. If you employ an illegal to work in your yard, you could lose your house.
This is much simpler and much more effect than a wall. And it would create jobs verifying compliance.
When there is no longer an incentive to hire an illegal, there will be no incentive for them to be here. They will go where they can work.
If it's going to work just like drug forfeitures, that means it will work without a conviction of an individual. Charges will be filed against the home or business, the business or homeowner would then have to prove the property innocent or lose it.

It's an invitation to abuse, whether used to enforce drug laws, immigration laws, or any other laws.

We have criminal asset forfeiture laws and should use those. This idea of "guilty property" that owners must prove innocent must die.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Asset Forfeiture Use Against Prostitution

In some places, criminal asset forfeiture (the kind requiring a conviction of a person). My problem with that is that I don't think prostitution should be a crime, but that's not an asset forfeiture issue.

In other places, it's the same old story as we've seen in the drug war: seizures of property without any charges against a person, sometimes property that is not even owned by an alleged offender. Like the yacht Monkey Business, seized because of a crew member's cannabis, but assets are being seized from one person for the alleged (but never charged) sex "crimes" of another.

Naturally, the money goes to seizing agencies instead of general revenue, creating an incentive to seize property that should not exist.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Can the government seize untainted funds in a criminal asset forfeiture case?

The Supreme Court will decide.

The case arose during a suspected Medicare fraud case in which the government froze $45 million in assets belonging to Sila Luis, who runs health-care businesses in Florida.

She was indicted three years ago for alleged schemes to pay illegal kickbacks for patient referrals and to bill Medicare for unnecessary services.

The government claimed the businesses received about $45 million in Medicare reimbursements and sought to recover the full amount in the criminal prosecution.

But Rutherford said the businesses also earned at least $15 million in untainted funds from sources other than Medicare – and the government moved to take those funds as well.

Attorneys for Luis objected, saying the government’s decision to deprive her of her own funds too violated the Sixth Amendment. Her right to due process, they contend, would be violated by such a move.

...


One year ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that defendants do not have a right to a hearing where they can plead for permission to use the money that the government alleges is tainted. In the case, the government said it was targeting the unconnected funds because the defendant “already has spent the ill-gotten gains on luxury items and travel.”

Rutherford argued that if the case is not reversed, the Sixth Amendment requirement for due process, specifically the right to counsel, will be blown apart.

...



Who is right? I can see both sides. Money is fungible. Targeting money that was not connected to any illegal activity seems wrong, but who is to say that the illegal money was already spent? It could have been the legal money that was already spent.

In any case, the part of the article that got to me was this:

The government routinely confiscates the proceeds of proven illegal activity, such as drug money.

Complete and total BS, typical of conservative drug warriors. Say the word "drug" and all respect for property rights goes out the window. They don't even want to acknowledge the simple truth that "drug money" is seized regularly without any proof of illegal activity. All that is required is suspicion, then the seizing agency gets rewarded for their suspicion by getting to take and keep the money. The owner must prove his property innocent to get it back.

The purpose of using civil asset forfeiture in this way back when Bonzo's administration began expanding the use of this power was exactly what this guy is decrying now: the idea was to prevent "kingpins" from hiring a good lawyer by taking all of their assets. In other words, to undermine the sixth amendment. Now this guy wants to blame Obama for Reagan's legacy.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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What happens when asset forfeiture reform starts to threaten drug war funding? The overwhelmingly popular idea of getting a conviction before punishing people by taking their property gets canned.

Yesterday, California Senate Bill 443 went down in flames in the state's Assembly. The bill, sponsored by Democrat Holly Mitchell in the Senate and Republican David Hadley in the Assembly, would have reformed the state's asset forfeiture regulations to require that police and prosecutors actually convict citizens of crimes before seizing ownership of their assets to spend on themselves.

The bill originally passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate earlier in the year, but then police and prosecutors got wind of it and began a campaign of fearmongering against it, telling legislators it would threaten budgets and would cut law enforcement out of the federal asset forfeiture sharing program. The law had been stripped down so that the state would be able to continue participating in the federal program, but even that wasn't enough.
 
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Pertinacious Tom

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Another effort to attack the drug war problem at its monetary roots

A new bipartisan bill would eliminate a controversial source of funding for one federal marijuana seizure program. Last week, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) introduced the “Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act.” The bill is quite simple: It would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from using federal forfeiture funds to pay for its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. Additionally, the bill would ban transferring property to federal, state or local agencies if that property “is used for any purpose pertaining to” the DEA’s marijuana eradication program.

Under this program, the DEA receives federal forfeiture funds ($18 million in 2013), which it then funnels to over 120 local and state agencies to eliminate marijuana grow sites nationwide. Last year, the program was responsible for over 6,300 arrests, eradicating over 4.3 million marijuana plants and seizing $27.3 million in assets. More than half of all plants destroyed were in California, which also accounted for over one-third of seized assets and nearly 40 percent of the arrests.

Across the country, drug cops have ensnared countless innocent Americans. In February 2014, the DEA seized a college student’s entire life savings, without finding any drugs or charging him with a drug crime. The student, Charles Clarke, has since partnered with the Institute for Justice and sued to win back his cash. In Georgia, the Governor’s Task Force for Drug Suppression raided an Atlanta retiree’s garden last year after spotting suspicious-looking green plants. But the plants weren’t marijuana: They were okra. The task force received federal forfeiture funding through the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program....
It's good to see Duopoly politicians taking up the position libertarians have long held on civil asset forfeiture and policing for profit.

It would be even better if they made some move toward rescheduling marijuana and admitting it has medical uses.

 

Pertinacious Tom

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Can the government seize untainted funds in a criminal asset forfeiture case?

The Supreme Court will decide.



The case arose during a suspected Medicare fraud case in which the government froze $45 million in assets belonging to Sila Luis, who runs health-care businesses in Florida.

She was indicted three years ago for alleged schemes to pay illegal kickbacks for patient referrals and to bill Medicare for unnecessary services.

The government claimed the businesses received about $45 million in Medicare reimbursements and sought to recover the full amount in the criminal prosecution.

But Rutherford said the businesses also earned at least $15 million in untainted funds from sources other than Medicare – and the government moved to take those funds as well.

Attorneys for Luis objected, saying the government’s decision to deprive her of her own funds too violated the Sixth Amendment. Her right to due process, they contend, would be violated by such a move.

...


One year ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that defendants do not have a right to a hearing where they can plead for permission to use the money that the government alleges is tainted. In the case, the government said it was targeting the unconnected funds because the defendant “already has spent the ill-gotten gains on luxury items and travel.”

Rutherford argued that if the case is not reversed, the Sixth Amendment requirement for due process, specifically the right to counsel, will be blown apart.

...



Who is right? I can see both sides. Money is fungible. Targeting money that was not connected to any illegal activity seems wrong, but who is to say that the illegal money was already spent? It could have been the legal money that was already spent.

In any case, the part of the article that got to me was this:

The government routinely confiscates the proceeds of proven illegal activity, such as drug money.

Complete and total BS, typical of conservative drug warriors. Say the word "drug" and all respect for property rights goes out the window. They don't even want to acknowledge the simple truth that "drug money" is seized regularly without any proof of illegal activity. All that is required is suspicion, then the seizing agency gets rewarded for their suspicion by getting to take and keep the money. The owner must prove his property innocent to get it back.

The purpose of using civil asset forfeiture in this way back when Bonzo's administration began expanding the use of this power was exactly what this guy is decrying now: the idea was to prevent "kingpins" from hiring a good lawyer by taking all of their assets. In other words, to undermine the sixth amendment. Now this guy wants to blame Obama for Reagan's legacy.
Oral arguments in this case next Tuesday.

 
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