Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Trump offers to ruin career of Texas senator over #assetforfeiture

This blog attempts where possible to avoid national politics, culture war debates, and certainly President Donald Trump. But the president injected himself into my world this morning when a Rockwall County Sheriff was visiting the White House and complained of a state senator who favored requiring a criminal conviction before the government could seize someone's assets. Trump asked for the senator's name, declaring "I want to hear his name. We'll destroy his career."

The bill under discussion was Sen. Konni Burton's SB 380, which would follow similar legislation in other states, most recently New Mexico, to restrict asset forfeiture to instances where a crime was committed. But the Sheriff said "him," and plenty of other legislators support the idea. So no one knows for sure whom was the senator to which the Sheriff was referring. Noted the Dallas News, "Several other senators have also supported this change in the past, including two civil-libertarian Republicans: Bob Hall, whose district includes Rockwall County and Don Huffines of Dallas." All of these are Texas Tea Party stalwarts. None of them, IMO, become vulnerable because Donald Trump criticized them.

Meanwhile, conservative groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Justice, and others have been pushing forfeiture reform hard for the last few years. So this is an area where Trumpian authoritarianism finds itself at odds with traditional, property-rights rooted conservatism and small-government distrust of state power.  There are dozens such fracture points emerging where Trumpism  diverges from traditional conservatism, so this issue arises as part of a larger debate: Will there continue to be a place for small-government conservatism in the Trumpian era? D.C. Republicans probably cannot resist his Big-Government siren song. But here in Texas, perhaps those values are a little more deeply rooted. Burton's SB 380 would be a good opportunity to express them.

MORE: A tale of three reform approaches on asset forfeiture.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake, this legislation is pro-criminal and soft on crime. The fact that GFB and Terry Canales (a criminal defense lawyer) are advocating the legislation says plenty in regard to the warped mentality of these Libertarians (and that's what they are) who are supporting these bills. It does however reaffirm my conviction that there's very little difference between liberals and Libertarians on the political continuum. I'm glad to see the president standing on the side of law enforcement (and the law abiding public) in his support for this highly effective law enforcement tool.

Anonymous said...

So, just to be clear, you're totally cool with law enforcement taking people's stuff for no reason or any reason. Right? That's a yes or no question.

The sad part of this is that you probably consider yourself to be a Defender of the Constitution.......

Charlie O said...

This meeting is pure evil. Blatant evidence of what scumbags Trump and many in law enforcement really are. Civil forfeiture without a criminal is a violation of the 4th amendment. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects"

Steven Seys said...

The seizure of assets by civil forfeiture was intended to be a tool to combat big drug dealers who could spend more than the government at trial and often got off. By removing the means of defense the government could convict them as easily as any other indigent defendants. What happened was a rapid expansion of the target list, until police agencies who became beneficiaries of the seized goods and funds began to apply it indiscriminately to innocent civilians. Horror stories include the California rancher gunned down in his home so three agencies could split the proceeds from the sale of his six-million-dollar ranch and motorists on I-10 whose automobiles were seized by speed traps to fund county projects. The criminals don't keep their money in their own names to avoid forfeiture. So once again the tough on crime rhetoric serves the criminals and punishes the innocent. When reason is applied, even advocates of a tough stance will admit that stealing from the public is not conducive to protecting them. When you punish the innocent the guilty go free, and laugh at you. Find a way to freeze assets of the people who are under indictment and you will achieve the stated goal of civil forfeiture without turning the LEOs into just another band of brigands.

Anonymous said...

@Steven, I guess you're okay with the billions of dollars that are being wired in and out of this country to fund the sexual exploitation of underage human trafficking victims--knowing that most of those primarily responsible are beyond the jurisdictional reach of federal and/or state authorities. Hey, no harm no foul, right?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If you're claiming that's what's driving asset forfeiture numbers, 7:34, in which the government now seizes more from the public than burglars, then you are a liar. If you actually believe it, you are a fool. Either way, that's a silly comment. It has scarce little to do with the debate at hand.

Anonymous said...

No, it has everything to do with the current debate. The fact that you want to pretend it doesn't says more about your "end justifies the means" promotion of this misguided legislation than what happens in the real world with respect to the sexual exploitation of children. The promoters of civil forfeiture legislation have this skewed idea that forfeiture is all about drugs. It's not. With the legalization of marijuana in many states, Mexican cartels are already shifting their criminal objectives from drugs to the exploitation of underage Central American girls. In fact, it's probably more "low risk/high reward" than drug trafficking. Federal authorities are already using asset forfeiture to combat human trafficking enterprises along with associated money laundering. It's just a matter of time before it's happening in the states if it's not already. You should take the time to educate yourself on this very real problem.

http://www.aequitasresource.org/Hitting-Them-Where-it-Hurts-Strategies-for-Seizing-Assets-in-Human-Trafficking-Cases.pdf

Anonymous said...

Most of Trump's chumps who voted for him are going to find out that his policies will adversely affect them more than those they despise. In my experience asset forfeiture is usually applied to those who lack the financial means to retain qualified legal representation.

The wealthier among us are rarely targeted because police know they'll be able to hire attorneys who will insure they get a fair hearing in the courts. While we hear about the larger amounts which are confiscated, the more common amounts taken are in the 300-1000.00 range, so most victims don't even consult with attorneys as they realize costs would be more than recovery.

Everyone who voted for Trump will lose right along with the rest of us.

David White (aka Caged Monkey #12) said...

Due process for all is more important than making sure criminals don't keep some cash. The police have seized money from innocent people - not affiliated or associated with criminal activity.

Anonymous said...

In reply to 05:52:00 AM:

More police officers are convicted of child sex crimes than are members of all other professions COMBINED. It's law enforcement's "dirty little secret". Almost 63,000 cops have been convicted or plead guilty to a child sex crime just in the past 4-years alone. Irrefutable, and fully documented: https://www.facebook.com/PoliceOfficersRapingKids/.

As for police officers, there have been several ENTIRE departments who were complicit in child sex trafficking.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:52 doesn't have a grasp on how forfeiture works. Nothing will stop the authorities from seizing assets upon indictment, with the disposition of those assets to be resolved with the conviction or acquittal. Defendants will still be unable to use those seized assets for their defense. If the people are acquitted, they will get their assets back. If they are convicted, they will lost the assets to forfeiture.

Reform will mean that law enforcement may no longer seize assets without a criminal charge, and the challenge the owner to prove a negative - that the assets did not derive from criminal activity. This is how civil forfeiture has become perverted. The system can and should be reformed so as not to lose the benefits of deny the fruits of criminality to perps, while shielding people who are never convicted (and usually are not even charged) from arbitrary seizure of their property by the law.

Anonymous said...

@7:42, So you're suggesting that if the person in possession of property subject to forfeiture wants to cooperate with law enforcement to help themselves and facilitate the prosecution of others involved in an illegal distribution scheme or enterprise, that law enforcement and prosecutors should nevertheless be required to obtain a conviction against that person before obtaining the forfeiture of the criminalized property, illegal proceeds of criminal activity, etc.? It seems to me that you're creating a financial incentive to obtain a conviction without regard to what might ultimately be in the best interest of law enforcement and crime suppression. That's very short sighted if you ask me.

Peter Marana said...

This conversation is totally frightening. Who in their right mind believes it is OK for the police to seize someone's property without a convection? The very premise of our Constitution and the criminal justice system is due process. It is our ONLY protection from the government taking people's property and now we let law enforcement keep the assets? That is the very definition of a conflict of interest. In this scenario you will never know what the motive of the police really is - and there are lots of examples of this turning into just a shake down racket.

You want to know why lots of people don't trust law enforcement - this is a good start. All the starch and badges can't erase this stain.

Anonymous said...

@Peter, other than the Shelby County roadside waiver scheme from years ago which the Feds and Legislature took action against, why don't you give us some Texas examples?

Anonymous said...

"Short-sighted" or not, although IMO that's just a cover-up, in this country the government can't take your freedom or your property without due process. Period. End of constitutional story. Regardless of the original intent, this has been a FUBAR of a law and harmed countless people who were both innocent of the crimes they were charged with (or never charged with) and didn't have the means to fight the government. We don't get to run ram shod over the citizenry in hopes of hitting a big-time criminal where it hurts.

Anonymous said...

@9:13, the government can't take your...property without due process? Try not paying your child support or federal income taxes and see how that works out for you!

Anonymous said...

@9:41 - please explain how failing to comply with a court order (child support) or the IRS code followed by the applicable garnishment proceedings (not paying Fed taxes) constitutes "taking property without due process". Are you the sort of nutter who thinks a court doesn't have jurisdiction if the US flag has a gold fringe on it?

John Kerr said...

The terrifying thing here for me is the probability Trump never gave the issue two thoughts previously but was impulsively inclined to "ruin careers" on the strength of what some guy he knows nothing about said in the course of small talk at some event. Apparently that's his approach to governing judging by what we've seen so far. And Trump's personality-cult followers -- possibly including anon 7:34 are eating it up.

Anonymous said...

I had a case where a car was driven to a crime scene. The car belonged to the girlfriend of the accused and convicted criminal. The girlfriend didn't know that her car was going where it was going. The car was seized and even after conviction was not given back to the girlfriend who had no involvment in the case or trial. The car was not even in evidence in the trial.
The locals kept the car and sold it for their benefit. The girlfriend couldn't afford to purchase a new used vehicle and eventually lost her job when she could no longer get rides to work.
In my book, there's something very wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

If they are really trying to help themselves they will. consent to the forfeiture that you are so concerned you may not be able to reach.