Seal

Why are innocent people still losing cash, cars and even homes to police?

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Terry Rolin, like his Depression-era parents, shunned banks and kept his life savings of more than $82,000 hidden at his suburban Pittsburgh home. What Rolin didn’t realize was that he had more to fear from law enforcement than from banks.

 

When Rolin, a retired railroad worker, moved to an apartment, he decided to entrust the money to his daughter, Rebecca Brown, to open a joint bank account in Boston, near her home. 

 

But as she was set to fly home from Pittsburgh International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration spotted the cash in her carry-on and called authorities. A Drug Enforcement Administration agent questioned her, didn’t believe her answers and seized the money under a program that was created to target illegal proceeds from crimes.

 

No swindlers and drug dealers

The agent had no reason to suspect Brown of any crime, and neither she nor her father were ever charged with one. Yet it took these innocent citizens more than six months, with help from pro bono lawyers and a class action lawsuit against the government, to get their money back last year.

 

At least their nightmare ended happily – far better than for tens of thousands of innocent people whose cash, cars or even homes are seized and permanently kept by local, state or federal law enforcement under “civil asset forfeiture.”

 

Forfeiture is meant to battle crime by taking profits from swindlers and drug dealers, and at times it does. But the way it has been used for decades, it too often ensnares law-abiding citizens.

 

Why?

 

Cash-strapped agencies

 

One reason is that federal, state and local authorities get to keep all or part of the forfeitures they take in. Since 2000, they’ve taken in nearly $69 billion, according to a report by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group that has sued the government in forfeiture cases. That’s 69 billion reasons for cash-strapped agencies to grab money, whether or not it’s justified.

 

And it’s so easy.

 

Police need only to suspect your property is somehow involved in a crime. They don’t have to charge you, let alone convict you of anything. And once they seize something, it’s up to you to prove in a complex and expensive system that it is not derived from a crime. Basically, you’re guilty until proven innocent.

 

Like so much else in today’s criminal justice system, the brunt of forfeiture falls on those who can least afford to fight back. The majority of seizures are cash. Across 21 states with available data 2015-19, the average forfeiture was $1,276  – not exactly drug lord fortunes.

 

Because many low-income and minority people don’t have bank accounts, they use cash and become easy prey for law enforcement. Once their cash is confiscated, they often have no money to hire a lawyer and are forced to let the money go.

 

Legitimate reasons people carry cash

Civil asset forfeiture turns authorities into bounty hunters who somehow can’t imagine the many legitimate reasons people carry cash. They’ve snatched large amounts of cash from people carrying it to buy a used car, to close a business deal or simply because it’s the proceeds of their legitimate cash business. 

 

A deputy in rural Muskogee, Oklahoma, stopped a driver on the highway for a broken taillight and seized $53,000 in donations collected from charity concerts for a Christian college in Myanmar and a Thai orphanage. Only after horrendous national publicity and intervention by an Institute for Justice lawyer did the government return the money.

 

Reform in New Mexico, Maine

Three dozen states have passed laws since 2014 to rein in the system’s abuses. But a huge loophole often remains: To get around state law, local police can partner with federal law enforcement in a forfeiture case and get up to 80% back as a kind of finder’s fee.

 

New Mexico, in a 2015 law, found a way to get around this problem. The state not only requires a conviction before taking money or property permanently, it also mandates that all proceeds go into the state’s general treasury rather than directly to police. And it has cut into the ability of police to partner with the feds. 

In Maine, a new measure that abolished civil asset forfeiture became law this week. 

 

Other states should take note. And if Congress is serious about police reform, it should eliminate federal agencies’ outrageous use of civil forfeiture and end the program that allows sharing with states.

 

Forfeiture is one more reason many law-abiding citizens fear and distrust law enforcement. In America, no one like Terry Rolin or his daughter should have to battle the government to get back their hard-earned property. 

 

 

The answer to the question is: Because corrupt cops + corrupt politicians = Free $$$.

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5 mins ago, Seal said:

 

The answer to the question is: Because corrupt cops + corrupt politicians = Free $$$.

Not saying the post isn't factual, saying like everything else there are situations, cops go on 12 million calls a year, you sell 12 million hamburgers and see if nobody gets hurt, has to happen, particularly in authoritative confrontations and domestic disputes. .

 

Tells me there isn't a major race issue or corruption problem with police, most are very good at their profession and do it right. Things would be a lot worse if more cops were really bad people, the majority are folks you'd like to be next to in a foxhole fighting for your life.

 

Now, politicians are mostly self serving egomaniacs that are power hungry and require far too much attention. Our  only leverage with them is not to elect them.

 

Enough of this over the top excessive banter, its easy to cherry pick specific stories to make a point, lets admire the good folks in those positions that are helping and realize that for every failure there are thousands of successes, how about some appreciation instead of being critical and bitter.  

 

 

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Obama and Trump made some noise about adding some oversight to forfeiture, LE fought it. LE is usually all about accountability, until it applies to them. This is banana republic crap that should never have been allowed to happen, circumventing Due Process is abhorrent.

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Revenue collectors and enforcement agents of Illegitimate regulations. 

 

The bUt vIoLeNt cRiMe crowd should really be prepared to defend themselves. Those good cops might not be there when you need them.

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9 mins ago, Jetty Jumper said:

Obama and Trump made some noise about adding some oversight to forfeiture, LE fought it. LE is usually all about accountability, until it applies to them. This is banana republic crap that should never have been allowed to happen, circumventing Due Process is abhorrent.

Exactly right. This is not a police problem per se. This is a policy problem. The agencies want it for easy funding but on an individual basis they probably dont care.

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25 mins ago, Sandbar1 said:

Revenue collectors and enforcement agents of Illegitimate regulations. 

 

The bUt vIoLeNt cRiMe crowd should really be prepared to defend themselves. Those good cops might not be there when you need them.

 

By the same token, Law Enforcement is starting to see what happens when just a small percentage of the population no longer supports them.

 

What happens to LE if they lose the majority of "normal" people?

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2 hours ago, Highlander1 said:

Not saying the post isn't factual, saying like everything else there are situations, cops go on 12 million calls a year, you sell 12 million hamburgers and see if nobody gets hurt, has to happen, particularly in authoritative confrontations and domestic disputes. .

 

Tells me there isn't a major race issue or corruption problem with police, most are very good at their profession and do it right. Things would be a lot worse if more cops were really bad people, the majority are folks you'd like to be next to in a foxhole fighting for your life.

 

Now, politicians are mostly self serving egomaniacs that are power hungry and require far too much attention. Our  only leverage with them is not to elect them.

 

Enough of this over the top excessive banter, its easy to cherry pick specific stories to make a point, lets admire the good folks in those positions that are helping and realize that for every failure there are thousands of successes, how about some appreciation instead of being critical and bitter.  

 

 

 Hell yeah, everyone makes mistakes.

 

What they're doing isn't a mistake. It's armed robbery. 

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