The original intent of seizure and forfeiture laws when first established was creating a tool for law enforcement to punish big time drug cartels and organized crime by taking assets gained through their illegal activities.
The original intent of seizure and forfeiture laws when first established was creating a a tool for law enforcement to punish big time drug cartels and organized crime by taking assets gained through their illegal activities.
On it’s face, the original intent makes sense. Take away the ill-gotten gains of professional criminals.
Civil Asset Forfeiture has since become a veritable smorgasbord of gluttony used by law enforcement agencies– especially those in budget conscious small communities– to finance their own departments at the expense of average citizens who may or may not be guilty of a crime.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Civil Asset Forfeiture is not the same as assets seized as a part of a criminal investigation, and has absolutely nothing to do with being convicted of anything.
Cars, boats, computers and of course cash, can be seized based on connections to criminal activity. But these seizures typically occur when someone is actually charged with criminal activity, and forfeiture comes only after a conviction.
Even if someone is found not guilty, the return of seized property can often be problematic when considering storage fees and the simple passage of time.
Of more concern are situations involving no criminal charges at all, ie: Civil Asset Forfeiture.
Your band is returning home after a big money gig. You are holding $5000 cash and get pulled over on the way home. The officer performs a search, finds the cash and asks where you got it. You explain that you were just paid for a show, but the officer decides he doesn’t believe you and confiscates the cash. Now, you must go to court to prove the money was legally obtained.
Or maybe you’re a young hip hop artist who has been saving up $10,000 from your job for the past 3 years so you can drive to Los Angeles and record in your buddy’s fancy studio. You get pulled over somewhere along the way, the cash is discovered and is subsequently confiscated, leaving you broke in the middle of nowhere and having to prove that the money was legally obtained. Not as easy as it sounds, either.
If the money was saved in a coffee can on the nightstand, and not withdrawn from a savings account, there is no way to prove where that money came from, even with payroll records. Just saying you saved it up is not enough to convince a judge the money was not ill-gotten.
So they keep the money.
These situations are far more common than most people realize, and are a gross perversion of a law that was originally intended to punish actual big-time criminals like drug cartels, not the general public. (The average civil forfeiture amount is $8000– hardly an amount one would associate with a drug cartel.)
President Trump is wrong to suggest these laws do not need to be reformed.