DoJ Stopping Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

How The Justice Department Is Actively Preventing Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

 

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

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Civil asset forfeiture is one of the most unethical and barbaric practices routinely performed by law enforcement in these United States today. Naturally, the Department of Justice is doing everything it can to protect the practice.

When I say that the rule of law is dead in America, I am not exaggerating. In fact, with each passing day it becomes increasingly obvious that the Justice Department not only has no interest in justice, it appears to view its primary role as coddling and protecting lawlessness amongst the so-called “elite” and their minions.

Today’s post proves the point once again. The state of California is in the process of passing a civil asset forfeiture bill, and in response, the DOJ is providing talking points to the California District Attorneys’ Association so that it can more effectively fight the bill. All of this after the DOJ had previously expressed faux support for civil asset forfeiture reform.

TechDirt reports:

At the beginning of this year, Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to close an exploitable loophole in asset forfeiture laws. State and local law enforcement agencies often sought federal “adoption” of seizures in order to route around statutes that dumped assets into general funds or otherwise limited them from directly profiting from these seizures. By partnering with federal agencies, local law enforcement often saw bigger payouts than with strictly local forfeitures.

The loophole closure still had its own loopholes (seizures for “public safety,” various criminal acts), but it did make a small attempt to straighten out some really perverted incentives. But deep down inside, it appears the DOJ isn’t really behind true forfeiture reform. In fact, it seems to be urging local law enforcement to fight these efforts by pointing out just how much money these agencies will “lose” if they can’t buddy up with Uncle Sam.

A cache of documents uncovered by the Institute for Justice today demonstrate that federal law enforcement officials in the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Treasury are collaborating with local law enforcement organizations in California to undermine efforts to reform the state’s civil forfeiture laws. The California District Attorneys Association is circulating a set of emails from officials with the DOJ and Treasury indicating that the federal government would disqualify the state from receiving funds from the federal Equitable Sharing Program if it passes the pending reforms. The documents also reveal that the DOJ has already disqualified New Mexico from participating in the program, following passage of a sweeping civil forfeiture reform bill this spring.

The DOJ’s insertion into the legislative process begins with talking points delivered in emails that stress the amount of money agencies will be “losing” if they’re no longer allowed to federalize seizures. The documents show members of the Treasury Department affirming that California’s reform will “force” the DOJ to cut state law enforcement agencies out of the loop — supposedly because the Mother Ship can’t secure convictions fast enough.

Citing “resources, desire, or technical capability,” Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture Legal Counsel Melissa Nasrah wrote in an email to Santa Barbara Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter, “I highly doubt our federal agencies can figure out whether a conviction occurred in any timely manner,” and “it seems the legislation, in effect, takes decision-making authority away from Treasury. Accordingly, I think I would still advise our policy officials here that it would be prudent to not share with CA agencies should this law be passed.”

Sure enough, the “warnings” from the feds are echoed in a letter from the California District Attorneys’ Association in opposition of the bill. The association expresses its abject dismay at the fact that law enforcement agencies might actually have to secure convictions to hold onto seized assets. According to the CDAA, asset forfeiture without accompanying convictions is a must because indictments and jail time alone aren’t punitive enough.

The current version of the bill would essentially deny every law enforcement agency in California direct receipt of any forfeited assets. California’s asset forfeiture law will be changed for the worse, and it will cripple the ability of law enforcement to forfeit assets from drug dealers when arrest and incarceration is an incomplete strategy for combatting drug trafficking.

That the DOJ has decided to pile on — despite its nominal reform efforts — is also less than shocking. After all, it takes a cut from every “adopted” investigation — all the while enabling local entities to bypass statutory safeguards meant to keep the abuse of civil forfeiture to a minimum.

To read the entire letter from the California District Attorneys’ Association, go to the end of the TechDirt article.

In case you still aren’t convinced of the unethical and unconstitutional nature of civil asset forfeiture, i.e., police theft, check out the following:

Land of the Unfree – Police and Prosecutors Fight Aggressively to Retain Barbaric Right of “Civil Asset Forfeiture”

The DEA Strikes Again – Agents Seize Man’s Life Savings Under Civil Asset Forfeiture Without Charges

Asset Forfeiture – How Cops Continue to Steal Americans’ Hard Earned Cash with Zero Repercussions

Quote of the Day – An Incredible Statement from the City Attorney of Las Cruces, New Mexico

“Common People Do Not Carry This Much U.S. Currency…” – This is How Police Justify Stealing American Citizens’ Money

Why You Should Never, Ever Drive Through Tenaha, Texas

Police The New “Highwaymen”

Civil Asset Forfeiture Has Enabled Police To Become The New “Highwaymen”

Submitted by Jeff Thomas via InternationalMan.com,

The Highwayman has a romantic image as a bold, 18th-century scallywag who would ride up to a coachload of aristocrats on his horse, shouting, “Stand and deliver!” Having relieved the aristocrats of their purses, he would gallop off.

Today, the Highwayman is being revived in a big way in the US. But, far from being a scofflaw, he is, in fact, the law. He wears a badge and the law protects him in his roadside robberies.

The revival is the result, in part, of both the defunding of police departments (creating a demand for law enforcement departments to seek money from other sources) and the encouragement of the federal government for an overall expansion of the police state.

The legal justification for such highway robbery is the police practice of civil forfeiture, which has been on the books for decades. Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property (including cash, cars, and even homes) without having to prove the owners are guilty of a crime.

In many cases, drivers are not charged with any crime at all, not even a traffic citation. In fact, one Florida sheriff has noted that the best targets are those who are obeying the speed law. He knows whereof he speaks, having seized over $6.5 million on the highways of Florida. (Quite an advance on the size of the purses seized by the 18th-century highwayman.)

Typically, police stop a car and make the usual request to see license and registration. If the driver asks why he was stopped, a vague explanation may be offered by the officer, or he may simply ignore the question, then demand a search of the car or the driver’s person. The officer then seizes cash and other valuables as potential “evidence” of a crime (suspected drug dealing is a common accusation).

In some cases, police threaten drivers that, if they are not cooperative, their children may be taken by Child Protective Services.

The burden of proof is on the driver. In order to regain his possessions, he must prove his innocence in a court. However, in most cases, no charges are made, so there is no court case to try. Whether charges are made or not, law enforcement agencies are entitled to keep 100% of the forfeiture proceeds. Although they are required to keep records on forfeiture, in many cases, police departments avoid or even refuse to provide such information when requested.

Although police may prey on people anywhere, including in small towns, the most prevalent location is on highways, the further from civilisation the better. In this way, the driver knows that he’s in the middle of nowhere facing a man with both a badge and a gun. He might consider himself lucky to be left with just his car, so that he can drive away from the robbery and not be left on the pavement with no car and no money. For many, this is enough incentive to allow police to take what they want…and not file any complaint.

Of course, these stops and seizures violate the Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and at least one state judge in California has described the practice as “an institutional corruption.” Conceptually, a driver can refuse to have his car or his person inspected and can attempt to prosecute the officer, but again, the burden of proof is on the driver. As a result, prosecutions are rare and successful prosecutions rarer still.

So, the Highwayman has returned, but he now wears a badge. What does this mean for the future? As social and economic conditions deteriorate in the US, will the country’s highways come to resemble a Mad Max scenario, but one in which many of the raiders are people in authority?

As with so many trends in the US, EU, and similar jurisdictions, this is one of many symptoms of overall social/moral/economic/governmental deterioration, a bellwether of continued decay.Whenever a country is so far along in its decline that its “peacekeepers” make a regular habit of robbing the people they’re paid to protect, and get away with it, we may conclude that further decline is to come and it may be time to exit this particular highway.

Unfortunately, when such crime exists from coast to coast, as it does with today’s institutionalised highwaymen, the solution is to seek out a better way of life in another country entirely. Fortunately, there are many countries where conditions are considerably better.

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