Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Sheriff's Letter in favor of Legalized Theft Powers for Sheriffs
WCNC continued its excellent series on civil forfeiture Wednesday, reporting that Charlotte-area police departments had received $20 million since 2018 through the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program. The story included a notable interview with Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the NSA.

Thompson's exchange with a WCNC reporter is worth quoting in full:
Jonathan Thompson - executive director of the NSA said:
"You want to assume everybody's innocent of a crime that's carrying $1 million in cash?" Thompson asked.

"Isn't that the way the law works? You're innocent until proven guilty?" WCNC Charlotte responded.

"You are innocent until proven guilty, but you are not just carrying around $1 million or $10,000 in cash without some level of notification and legitimacy," he replied. "You've got to be able to demonstrate some level of legitimacy."

"If it's not illegal to carry the cash, why should I have to prove that it's my cash to begin with?" WCNC Charlotte asked.

"How do I know this is yours?" he replied.

"You could get probable cause and arrest me," WCNC Charlotte responded.

"That's exactly what they do and if they don't, they need policies and procedures," Thompson said. "Let's define the proper guideposts here. That's what we're saying."

There are several issues with Thompson's comments—the dismissal of the presumption of innocence, and the rather extreme range of what's considered suspicious cash, for instance—but his claim that obtaining probable cause and arresting suspects is exactly what police do in civil forfeiture cases is incorrect.

From the link in the above post:

All of this aside, a core principle of the American legal system is that you should be free to go about your business without having to show your papers to some officious, sticky-fingered busybody. The legal fiction of civil asset forfeiture—that it's an action against the property, not the owner—and the Supreme Court's endorsement of pretextual traffic stops were created to get around this principle, and Thompson's comments demonstrate exactly why that's a problem.

Marine Veteran Wins First Round of Lawsuit Challenging Nevada’s Civil Forfeiture Laws​

RENO, Nev.—On Thursday, the Second Judicial District Court for the State of Nevada denied the state’s motion to dismiss a Marine veteran’s lawsuit challenging the state’s civil forfeiture laws, after his life savings were taken through the controversial process nearly three years ago. Thursday’s decision means Stephen Lara, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), can continue his legal challenge to the state’s forfeiture scheme, which allows police to take people’s property without showing that they committed a crime.

“The court’s ruling is a major first step toward justice for Stephen and all victims of unjust civil forfeiture laws,” said IJ Attorney Ben Field. “If the government wants to take your money or property, it should first have to prove you did something wrong. Nevada law enforcement should have to follow the Nevada Constitution.”

In February 2021, Stephen was pulled over on a Nevada highway on his way to visit his daughters. The officers who pulled him over never alleged he did anything wrong, and Stephen cooperated throughout the ordeal. However, using civil forfeiture, the officers were able to detain Stephen for more than an hour and take his life savings from him. He was left penniless on the side of the highway. The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) then used a controversial tactic known as the equitable sharing program to send Stephen’s money to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), with the expectation that the DEA would circumvent Nevada law to forfeit the money using more government-friendly federal law and then kick back the lion’s share for the NHP to use however it wanted.


The civil asset forfeiture you hardly hear about. Strange thing about this case was that he was caught then he was actually given a slap on the wrist. After being caught again (strange) he seems like he might possibly get something close to appropriate punishment. There are several cases of cops doing this civil asset forfeiture without bothering with paperwork I've seen documented. A few months ago (maybe a couple years now) there was video of a whole damn department going through someones house & taking what they wanted. They had their bodycams on which shows just how OK they think it is. IIRC the homeowner had security cams too which helped his case, but even then I don't think anyone got anything more serious than a few days paid vacation as punishment.

A bill introduced in the Colorado House would require a criminal conviction before the state could proceed with the asset forfeiture process in most cases. The enactment of this legislation would also further opt the state out of a program that allows police to circumvent more strict state forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the feds.

Rep. Ken Degraaf and Rep. Mark Baisley introduced House Bill 1023 (HB1023) on Jan. 10. Under the proposed law, the state must file a forfeiture proceeding within 90 days after the property is seized, and the state establishes that the seized property is an instrumentality of, or proceeds derived directly from, the crime for which the owner is convicted. The bill specifically stipulates that all proceedings in the forfeiture action would be stayed until a criminal conviction is obtained.


I hope it passes.
That won't really work. They run the SCAM/Theft by suing the money itself. Like money could really be a thing that gets sued but it also doesn't have any rights.
The US government won’t specify why it abruptly seized more than $100 million from people’s safety deposit boxes in California, according to a new lawsuit.
Linda and Reggie Martin want to know why the FBI took their cash, along with the contents of hundreds of other people’s safety deposit boxes, from a financial storage company in Beverly Hills in March of 2021.

This morning, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled against the government in a long-running class action lawsuit from the Institute for Justice (IJ) on behalf of people who rented security deposit boxes at US Private Vaults. The decision slammed the FBI for overstepping its authority when it opened up hundreds of renters’ boxes, conducted criminal searches of them all, and attempted to permanently keep everything in the boxes worth more than $5,000, all without charging any box renter with a crime.

“Today’s opinion draws a line in the sand, to ensure something like this never happens again,” said IJ Senior Attorney Rob Johnson. “If this had come out the other way, the government could have exported this raid as a model across the country. Now, the government is on notice its actions violated the Fourth Amendment.”

Judge Milan D. Smith, writing for the court, likened the FBI’s actions to the abuses that motivated the Bill of Rights: “[T]he government failed to explain why applying the inventory exception to this case would not open the door to the kinds of ‘writs of assistance’ the British authorities used prior to the Founding to conduct limitless searches of an individual’s personal belongings. It was those very abuses of power, after all, that led to adoption of the Fourth Amendment in the first place.”

“We knew that what the FBI did to us and so many others was wrong and today’s decision is a validation,” said Jennifer Snitko. “It took courage for Paul and I to be among the first people to stand up publicly and call out the government but we are proud to have fought for our rights. This is a good day for our country and the principle that the government’s power to search our property has limits.”

For years, the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) insisted that they did nothing wrong at US Private Vaults. Even though the warrant authorizing the raid only permitted the FBI to open boxes to identify their owners and safeguard the contents, agents rummaged through hundreds of boxes, ran currency they found in front of drug sniffing dogs, and made copies of people’s most personal records. The DOJ then filed a massive administrative forfeiture claim to take more than $100 million in cash and other valuables, again, without charging any individual with a crime.

“The government promised the magistrate that it would not conduct a criminal search or seizure of the boxes,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert Frommer. “After years of litigation, today’s opinion shows that not to be true. The government lied to justify its forfeiture scheme, and in the end the lie was its undoing.”

A bill introduced in the West Virginia House would reform the state’s asset forfeiture process to require a conviction in most cases. The enactment of this bill would also take a step to opt the state out of a program that allows police to circumvent more strict state forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the feds.

Del. Mike Pushkin introduced House Bill 4531 (HB4531) on Jan. 10. The legislation would replace the current civil asset forfeiture process in West Virginia with a criminal procedure requiring a conviction before the state could move forward with forfeiture.



Charlotte-area police have seized so much money through asset forfeiture, they can't even spend it all​

A WCNC Charlotte investigation found Charlotte-area police departments had a combined $16 million in seized cash on hand, as of the latest federal reporting period.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police departments across the area have seized and kept so much cash through a controversial asset forfeiture program, they've yet to spend it all. A WCNC Charlotte review of equitable sharing records shows those departments had a combined $16 million in their fund balances as of the end of the latest reporting period in June.

Critics call asset forfeiture "Policing for Profit," because they say it incentivizes police to take people's cash, even if there are no criminal charges tied to the money. Police departments have long defended the practice of asset forfeiture as a way to disrupt large criminal enterprises and inject the cash they seize into protecting their communities.



Police Baffled by How to Spend $16M They've Seized in Civil Asset Forfeiture​

Feb 1, 2024


Court orders return of $300K that state police seized during Pa. traffic stop​

Published: Feb. 01, 2024, 5:42 p.m.

LEWISBURG — Commonwealth Court has ordered the return of $300,010 state police seized from a California man during a traffic stop on Interstate 80 in Union County four years ago.

The ruling Thursday that reversed county court decisions also requires the return of the cell phone taken from Zhi Xiong Xu on Jan. 23, 2020.

The following is taken from the Commonwealth Court opinion:

Trooper Christopher Isbitski of the Pa. State Police stopped a westbound rental SUV for speeding, not using a turn signal when changing lanes and other violations.

The trooper became suspicious when vague travel plans provided by Xu conflicted with the rental agreement for the SUV.

No drugs, paraphernalia or weapons were observed in the SUV and none were found on Zu during a pat down.


Lawmaker seeks to ban practice allowing Seward County, others, to seize millions from motorists​

LINCOLN, Neb. (Flatwater Free Press) - A new bill in the Nebraska Legislature seeks to ban civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows the government to seize a person’s property without criminal charges.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Brewer, a Republican from Gordon, the bill comes months after a Flatwater Free Press investigation found the Seward County Sheriff’s Office uses civil asset forfeiture more than any other county in the state, hauling in millions after seizing cash from motorists on a 24-mile stretch of Interstate 80.

If passed, the bill would force the legal change that legislators thought they accomplished in 2016.

“We wanted to make sure that things were being done correctly when it comes to the issue of stops and seizures,” Brewer said. “We don’t want to make it harder for law enforcement. What we want to do is make sure that what they do is perceived in a positive light.”



Feds Give Woman Her Money Back After Court of Appeals Win​

Feb 9, 2024


House and Senate lawmakers inch closer to passing new laws for civil asset forfeiture​

TOPEKA — The Kansas Highway Patrol took more than $15,000 in cash from Barbara Reese in 1995 during a traffic stop.

It took her 24 years, several claims against the government, and legislative outrage to get some of the money back.

Reese, and others like her, were subjected to the state’s civil asset forfeiture practice, one widely characterized as in dire need of reform. Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize cash and property they suspect was used in a crime. Critics of the practice say loose regulations have led to unjust seizures.

In Kansas, police can take property they believe to be connected to crime before the property owner is charged or convicted — a practice that has led to approximately $25.3 million in cash and property seized by Kansas law enforcement agencies over the past three and a half years.

“For certain agencies, this has devolved into a moral hazard, where it’s gone from being an effective crime-fighting tool to solving the case, to now it’s become a way we can make cash for our organization,” said Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, Thursday during Senate debate.

Agencies will need to meet higher standards to keep taking these assets if lawmakers finalize approval of new legislation. Concerned lawmakers have put forward more transparency measures in the form of House Bill 2606 and Senate Bill 458.



Alabama Couple Awarded $1 Million Over Warrantless Raid Of Their House That Saw Cops Walk Off With All Their Cash​

Very rarely do you see anyone prevail in court when any form of forfeiture is in play. The forfeiture litigation deck is firmly stacked in favor of the government, which rarely needs anything approaching actual proof to walk off with someone’s property.

It’s even more rare to see someone awarded damages in a civil lawsuit against law enforcement officers. In most cases, qualified immunity terminates the lawsuit. If qualified immunity is not awarded, agencies and governments are often swift to offer plaintiffs no-fault settlements that allow the accused to walk away from the lawsuit without having to admit any wrongdoing, much less pay out of their own pockets for their misdeeds.

This case contains both rarities. Not only does it involve regular people securing some sort of justice for their violated rights, but the underlying set of rights violations included officers walking out the home they’d raided without a warrant with all the valuables they could get their hands on, including $4,000 in cash.

Here’s how the raid went down, as recounted by C.J. Ciaramella for Reason back in 2019.


For those who enjoy vids:

Civil Asset Forfeiture Victims Win Million Dollar Verdict​

In March 2021, the FBI raided US Private Vaults. The warrant authorizing the raid directed officers to focus on US Private Vaults, the business, and specifically stated that it did not authorize a criminal search or seizure of the contents of the individual safe deposit boxes. When it came to the boxholders, the FBI promised the judge that it would “preserve the property for safekeeping” until it could be safely returned to the rightful owners.

The federal lawsuits of security deposit renters whose valuables were not returned after the FBI’s 2021 raid of US Private Vaults will move forward after a court order issued late last week. Last year, Don Mellein, Jeni Pearsons, and her husband Michael Storc joined with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file two separate lawsuits demanding that the government return their coins and cash. The FBI’s raid on the security deposit box company was recently declared unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a separate, class action lawsuit.

“This ruling is a major step forward in holding the FBI accountable for the reckless and unconstitutional way it handled private property,” said IJ Attorney Joe Gay. “When the government seizes property, it takes on the responsibility of keeping that property safe. Don, Jeni, and Michael did nothing wrong and the court agreed that they should have an opportunity to prove their case and be made whole.”

Don rented a security deposit box to keep safe precious coins he had purchased as retirement savings. Jeni and Michael stored precious metals and cash in their box. They all were effectively forced to prove their innocence in order to keep the government from permanently taking their property. But when the government gave up on its forfeiture efforts, it failed to return 63 precious metal coins worth more than $100,000 to Don and $2,000 in cash to Jeni and Michael.

“It was frightening to have much of our retirement savings in the government’s hands when we had done nothing wrong,” said Jeni. “It was infuriating when the government gave up and failed to return everything it took. I’m pleased that the judge will let our case move forward, but this never should have happened in the first place.”

IJ’s earlier class action lawsuit shined a light on the FBI’s raid, uncovered the agency’s forfeiture motives, and showed how the FBI’s rushed inventory of hundreds of boxes could have resulted in misplaced property. The agent in charge of forfeitures testified that months before seeking a warrant for the raid, the FBI had already planned to try to take any box with property worth more than $5,000 using civil forfeiture. All told, the FBI sought forfeiture of more than $85 million in cash and tens of millions of dollars’ worth of precious metals, jewelry, and poker chips.


Kansas Police Seized Her Truck. It Took Her 8 Months To Get it Back, Despite Never Being Charged With a Crime.​

Dewonna Goodridge, a 57-year-old Junction City resident, says she worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week as a machine operator to save up money for her 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe.

All it took for Kansas law enforcement to take it from her last June was a traffic stop that didn't involve her and an evidence-free claim that there were marijuana crumbs in the center console of her truck.

Goodridge fought for over eight months to get her truck back. Prosecutors in Geary County, Kansas, agreed earlier this month to return it after Goodrich challenged the seizure with help from the Kansas Institute for Justice and the law firm of Joseph, Hollander & Craft.

"I just didn't think it was fair because I worked really hard to get this vehicle," she says. "They knew when they ran the plates that everything came back to me, and I just couldn't understand. I couldn't let them take my truck like that."


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (April 5, 2024) – Yesterday, a Rhode Island House Committee held a hearing on a bill that would require a criminal conviction before proceeding with asset forfeiture under the state’s Controlled Substance Act. However, the legislation leaves a loophole open that would allow police to continue using asset forfeiture by partnering with the feds.

Rep. David Place and a bipartisan coalition of six cosponsors introduced House Bill 8105 (H8105) on March 27. The proposed law would end civil asset forfeiture under the state’s Uniform Controlled Substance Act and replace it with a criminal process requiring a conviction before prosecutors could proceed with forfeiture.

On April 4, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H8105 and recommended the measure be held for further study. This common procedural move in the Rhode Island legislature allows committee members to analyze the bill before it comes up for a vote.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that authorities do not have to provide a quick hearing when they seize cars and other property used in drug crimes, even when the property belongs to so-called innocent owners.

By a 6-3 vote, the justices rejected the claims of two Alabama women who had to wait more than a year for their cars to be returned. Police had stopped the cars when they were being driven by other people and, after finding drugs, seized the vehicles.

Civil forfeiture allows authorities to take someone’s property, without having to prove that it has been used for illicit purposes. Critics of the practice describe it as “legalized theft.”


'Highway robbery' by U.S. police gets green light, thanks to ruling

'Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties'​

It's been called by some "a modern-day form of highway robbery," but the Supreme Court nevertheless has gone along with it.

It's the practice by police of using delay tactics when they confiscate cash, jewelry, cars and other valuables from people who sometimes are completely innocent of any offense.

They are "asset forfeiture" cases and often involve no criminal charge against the property owner, according to a report from the Rutherford Institute, which fights in America's courts for constitutional, religious and civil rights.

The latest high court action came in a 6-3 decision in Culley v. Marshall, where the justices held that there are "no due process protections for citizens in asset forfeiture proceedings to have an early court hearing to contest the government keeping possession of their seized property while they await trial."

Lawyers for the Rutherford were joined by those from the ACLU and Cato Institute to argue that an early hearing was needed to "protect citizens against the government’s delay tactics, which make it difficult for individuals innocent of any wrongdoing to recover their property in a timely manner from police who stand to profit from the forfeiture."

Justice Neil Gorsuch said it is a problem to have police delay proceedings and keep citizens' private property for as long as a year or more.
He said that could coerce the owners to "settle" the dispute by paying a penalty for property they need for their work, or that they love.

But the majority overruled him.

"Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties," warned constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "You just have to possess something the government wants."

The institute explained, "Asset forfeiture has become a 'booming business' for the government, with federal forfeitures alone having brought in $2.5 billion during 2018. Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where government agents (usually the police) seize private property they 'suspect' may be connected to criminal activity, then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property, often divvying it up with the local police who did the initial seizure."

The government claims in such cases that some sort of property is "tied" to a crime, and then takes it. Then it forces the owner to prove the "innocence" of that property.

But the government sets up hoops and obstacles for the owners to negotiate in trying to regain their own property.

"Challenging these takings in court can cost an owner more than the value of the confiscated property itself, which, as Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence explained, is why some agencies reportedly place special emphasis on seizing low-value items and relatively small amounts of cash," the institute reported.

The case developed when police in Alabama confiscated cars belong to Halima Culley and Lena Sutton which had been used by other individuals who were accused of drug possession.
I’ve been rather suspicious of criminal activity going on in our government. I may have to head down to some government buildings to see what I can seize until I complete my investigations.
They're not saying you can't still steal peoples stuff without them having been convicted or even charged, but you can only use the ill gotten loot for certain stuff & the road pirates aren't happy.


Georgia Supreme Court Holds State Must Allege ‘Essential Elements’ of a Criminal Violation in Order to Seek Forfeiture of Property​

ATLANTA—Today, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a decision that upholds one of the few modest protections available to victims of civil forfeiture in the Peach State. In the decision, the justices ruled that the government must strictly follow the state’s forfeiture statute by alleging each element of a crime and providing factual allegations supporting each element in its civil forfeiture complaint in order to permanently take someone’s property. The Institute for Justice (IJ) submitted an amicus brief in the case, urging the court to prevent the erosion of these minimal protections.

Civil forfeiture is a process through which law enforcement can permanently take property—including cars, money, and even homes—from individuals without even charging them with a crime.

“Georgia’s protections for property owners in civil forfeiture cases are already some of the weakest in the nation, and they were at risk of being watered down even further by the lower courts. But today’s decision ensures that law enforcement still must satisfy basic pleading requirements by alleging each element of a crime and the facts it believes indicate the crime was committed before it can seek to permanently forfeit someone’s property,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban, who co-directs IJ’s National Initiative to End Forfeiture Abuse. “Not only is that required by Georgia statute, but it is a basic requirement of due process for someone to know what the allegations are so that they can defend against them. This decision is a victory for property rights, but much more work needs to be done to fully protect property owners in Georgia from forfeiture abuse.”



Police Seized Innocent People's Property and Kept It for Years. What Will the Supreme Court Do?​

Gerardo Serrano and Stephanie Wilson may have little in common. But there is at least one major tie that binds them: The government seized their vehicles, never charged either of them with a crime, and, most pertinently, made them wait years before resolving their cases.

It is not uncommon for victims of civil forfeiture—the practice that allows law enforcement to take people's assets without having to prove the owner was guilty of a crime—to endure protracted delays before they have the opportunity to even step foot in a courtroom and defend themselves. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear Culley v. Attorney General of Alabama and decide if those who find themselves in that situation are entitled to a probable cause hearing after the seizure and, if so, how speedily it must happen.

That the highest court in the country has to rule on whether people get such a hearing is an apt indictment of how unaccountable civil forfeiture has become.



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