The criminal cases would end in a fizzle — Anderson got 48 months’ probation for two counts of delivery of marijuana, and the others all received probation, often followed by deferred adjudication, or a lesser punishment.If I were an artist, I'd illustrate this story with an image of Lady Justice peeking out from under her blindfold to assess the relative wealth of defendants, willing if need be to lay down her sword to better fill her robes with gold from their pockets. Her scales have been reduced from a metaphor for equality under the law to a mere merchant's tool for weighing the students' coinage.
Still, as Anderson and other former students would find, the economic penalties of the drug arrests could far outweigh the results of the criminal cases.
The haul seized by police through civil asset forfeiture was substantial: $46,243 in cash; 15 cars, trucks and SUVs valued at more than $250,000; and nine weapons, according to an after-action report released five days after the slew of arrests.
Other assets picked up by police included iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and an assortment of cellphones — 36 items totaling around $17,650.
The items were seized before formal charges were filed and months before any convictions. Under state law, police have the power to seize items that might have been used in a crime or paid for with money from a crime.
A person doesn’t have to be convicted, or even formally charged, for police to take their assets and for the county to keep them.
“They make the arrest and ask questions later,” said Tim Evans, the attorney for Matthew Davis, one of the TCU students arrested.
Good coverage; read the whole thing. See also this interesting, related item analyzing the process of auctioning off forfeited items. Eric Nicholson at the Dallas Observer's Unfair Park blog summed the issue up well with this conclusion:
Here's betting Fort Worth police seize this type of property in lower-profile drug cases all the time; why should the college kids be any different?One is reminded of the important distinction between a pirate and a privateer.
The potentially concerning thing is how the outcome is arrived at. These are civil seizures, meaning that defendants don't get the due process protections they do in criminal cases and that the burden of proof for law enforcement is much lower. Indeed, prosecutors need not even secure a conviction in order to keep someone's property. It turns the presumption of innocence on its head.