Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Just Liberty: Tell Texas Lege to reform civil asset forfeiture

Grits readers are an informed lot, so I'll keep this short and sweet. If you live in Texas and support requiring a criminal conviction for the government to seize people's personal property via civil asset forfeiture, go to the Just Liberty site and take action, asking your state rep and senator to change the law. Now is the time to put the topic on their radar screen, as members are prioritizing issues headed into the 85th Texas legislative session which begins in January.

Currently, while the government can't secure a criminal conviction without proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they can accuse your stuff of criminality based on a lesser standard - "preponderance of the evidence" - and take it from you, anyway. This proposal would still let government do forfeitures, but only after they've proven that the property owner committed a crime. If you agree, Grits would appreciate it if you'd go here and register your opinion. Thanks folks.

For more arguments supporting asset forfeiture reform, see Right on Crime's new paper, "Rebutting Common Myths of Civil Asset Forfeiture."


Anonymous said...

Asset forfeiture started in the 1980"s? Who knew? And here I thought all along that it started with maritime law as far back as the 17th century.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Glad we're here to teach you something, 10:37. DOJ's Asset Forfeiture Fund was created in 1985, based on the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act passed by Congress 1984. Your reference to maritime precedent is cute, but NOT the basis for modern forfeiture policy. That's a function of the drug war. Thanks for playing, though.

Miketrials said...

No, Grits, they had this same thing back in the 1700s, like 10:37 said. Only back then they didn't use such high-flown terminology -- they just called it piracy. Viva the kleptocracy.

Happy holidays

The Law Enforcement Project said...

(re Miketrials)
Actually, England, and therefor the American Colonies, did have a type of (Admiralty-based) civil forfeiture in the 1700's. It was not called piracy, but ironically was specifically developed to address piracy on the open seas and in port.

Stated another way, the civil forfeiture you refer to was a type of process of English Admiralty law specifically created to deal with piracy as a subject-matter.

This process permitted treating pirates property (ie; property with a legal nexus to the crime of piracy) as a thing in itself (the Res), to seize that property, and to attach personal jurisdiction of the English Admiralty law forum to that Res, which often was ordinarily outside of such jurisdiction (eg; foreign ships).

The pirates themselves were treated under the criminal side of English Common Law.

Of course, as with virtually all law, such forfeiture process was open to abuse, which paradoxically could make the law enforcers like pirates themselves.

Anonymous said...

M.D. Cohen said,

The real issue here, 18th century maritime laws aside, is the bizarrely uneven application of these civil forfeitures.

I have a long time friend, who was arrested for multiple CS delivery charges. HPD seized his vehicle, as well as over $2k in cash.
He received deferred adjudication for his criminal charges, thanks to a very high priced criminal attorney.

He also had the wherewithal to hire a high priced civil attorney. The cash was gone for good, but he was able to pay an additional $2,000, almost, in administrative and storage fees, to get his $40,000 vehicle back, only 16 months later. It was returned to a family member, with the explicit instruction that it could not be returned to him in any fashion. So he sold it, via his family member.
He is my friend, and I'm happy he got it back, but that doesn't make it right. The vehicle was certainly purchased with ill-gotten funds.

I've seen someone, who was arrested on payday after buying a little bit of marijuana. Two little bags, because that is how it was given to him. It mattered not that he had his check stub, and had just cashed the check hours earlier. His bi-weekly take-home pay of just over $1,000, (in 2003 dollars), was seized and I'd bet he never got it back. They charged him with manufacture/delivery because he had two small bags, instead of one. No other evidence to indicate sale/delivery was present.
This man could have, and probably did need that money to take care of dependants, pay rent, et cetera. If he hadn't been black, the entire arrest probably wouldn't have happened in the first place. Even if it had, they would have charged him with misdemeanor possession, and refrained from seizing his hard earned money.
I'm afraid I don't have anymore personally witnessed examples, but there are thousands of them online, from all across the country. Even if the "Beyond a reasonable doubt" standard were applied to these forfeitures, they still should be mothballed, with the rest of the unconstitutional, dusty relics of our failed war on drugs.

Even if the civil forfeitures were applied evenly to all defendants, which is unfathomable at this point, they are still unconstitutional. They ruin people's lives, and perpetuate crime, sometimes violent, instead of deterring it.

Anonymous said...

Don't ask where they got their loot or who they took it from. They stole it fair and square so they can keep it!

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who was arrested for failing to signal a change of lane (it was 1 lane both ways) or turn. He was not pulled over where the police say the incident actually happened, but a police SUV was stopped on the main road waiting for him to exit from my neighborhood back onto the main road. Once they stopped him, they asked to search his vehicle. He declined and the man officer (2 cops-1 woman, 1 man) got VERY loud and ugly and placed him under arrest for his turn signal failure.
When I got to the city jail to get his belongings, the police handed me his wallet, minus the $1070 that had been in there. I asked about it and was told that because it was most likely from ill gotten gains, they were keeping his money. That money was what he had been saving from a job he had been working for a friends dad's remodeling/painting/light construction company.
I told you all of that to ask you a strange question. Recently, he got a message from the DA's office offering him exactly half of his taken money, $535. He just needed to come down, scribble a couple of signatures on paperwork, and he would get that $535 back. Neither one of us has ever heard of this practice... Do you have any insight on this offer???
Thanks so much!!!