Keep impounding and auctioning to enforce the law

Mar 17, 2011 Full story: Corpus Christi Caller 7

The auction also cleared the police impound lot of 144 cars, making room for officers to resume random insurance checkpoints and impound the vehicles of uninsured drivers.

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Greg Ellis

United States

#2 Mar 17, 2011
Over the past three decades, it has become routine in the United States for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Nearly every year, according to Justice Department statistics, the federal government sets new records for asset forfeiture. And under many state laws, the situation is even worse: State officials can seize property without a warrant and need only show “probable cause” that the booty was connected to a drug crime in order to keep it, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, owners of seized property all too often have a heavier burden of proof than the government officials who stole their stuff.
Municipalities have come to rely on confiscated property for revenue. Police and prosecutors use forfeiture proceeds to fund not only general operations but junkets, parties, and swank office equipment. A cottage industry has sprung up to offer law enforcement agencies instruction on how to take and keep property more efficiently. And in Indiana, where Anthony Smelley is still fighting to get his money back, forfeiture proceeds are enriching attorneys who don’t even hold public office, a practice that violates the U.S. Constitution.
Guilty Property, Innocent Owners
Technically, civil asset forfeiture proceedings are brought against the property itself, not the owner. Hence they often have odd case titles, such as U.S. v. Eight Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Dollars or U.S. v. One 1987 Jeep Wrangler. The government need only demonstrate that the seized property is somehow related to a crime, generally either by showing that it was used in the commission of the act (as with a car driven to and from a drug transaction, or a house from which drugs are sold) or that it was purchased with the proceeds.
Because the property itself is on trial, the owner has the status of a third-party claimant. Once the government has shown probable cause of a property’s “guilt,” the onus is on the owner to prove his innocence. The parents of a drug-dealing teenager, for instance, would have to show they had no knowledge the kid was using the family car to facilitate drug transactions. Homeowners have to show they were unaware that a resident was keeping drugs on the premises. Anyone holding cash in close proximity to illicit drugs may have to document that he earned the money legitimately.
When owners of seized property put up a legal fight (and the majority do not), the cases are almost always heard by judges, not juries. In some states forfeiture claimants don’t even have the right to a jury trial. But even in states where they do, owners tend to waive that right, because jury proceedings are longer and more expensive. Federal forfeiture claimants are technically guaranteed a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment, but can lose the right if they fail to reply in a timely manner to sometimes complicated government notices of seizure.
Greg Ellis

United States

#3 Mar 17, 2011
Federal asset forfeiture law dates back to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970, a law aimed at seizing profits earned by organized crime. In 1978 Congress broadened RICO to include drug violations. But it was the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 that made forfeiture the lucrative, widely used law enforcement tool it is today.
“The Crime Control Act did a few things,” says the Virginia-based defense attorney David Smith, author of the legal treatise Prosecution and Defense of Forfeiture Cases.“First, it corrected some poor drafting in the earlier laws. Second, it created two federal forfeiture funds, one in the Justice Department and one in the Treasury. And most important, it included an earmarking provision that gave forfeiture proceeds back to local law enforcement agencies that helped in a federal forfeiture.”
This last bit was key.“The thinking was that this would motivate police agencies to use the forfeiture provisions,” Smith says.“They were right. It also basically made law enforcement an interest group. They directly benefited from the law. Since it was passed, they’ve fought hard to keep it and strengthen it.”
The 1984 law lowered the bar for civil forfeiture. To seize property, the government had only to show probable cause to believe that it was connected to drug activity, or the same standard cops use to obtain search warrants. The state was allowed to use hearsay evidence—meaning a federal agent could testify that a drug informant told him a car or home was used in a drug transaction—but property owners were barred from using hearsay, and couldn’t even cross-examine some of the government’s witnesses. Informants, while being protected from scrutiny, were incentivized monetarily: According to the law, snitches could receive as much as one-quarter of the bounty, up to $50,000 per case.
According to a 1992 Cato Institute study examining the early results of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, total federal forfeiture revenues increased by 1,500 percent between 1985 and 1991. The Justice Department’s forfeiture fund (which doesn’t include forfeitures from customs agents) jumped from $27 million in 1985 to $644 million in 1991; by 1996 it crossed the $1 billion line, and as of 2008 assets had increased to $3.1 billion. According to the government’s own data, less than 20 percent of federal seizures involved property whose owners were ever prosecuted.
Greg Ellis

United States

#4 Mar 17, 2011
THE LOOTING OF AMERICA
How over 200 Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Enable Police to Confiscate Your Home, Bank Accounts & Business Without Trial

by Jarret B. Wollstein

"A police dog scratched at your luggage, so we're confiscating your life savings and you'll never get it back."

Police stopped 49-year-old Ethel Hylton at Houston's Hobby Airport and told her she was under arrest because a drug dog had scratched at her luggage. Agents searched her bags and strip-searched her, but they found no drugs. They did find $39,110 in cash, money she had received from an insurance settlement and her life savings; accumulated through over 20 years of work as a hotel housekeeper and hospital janitor. Ethel Hylton completely documented where she got the money and was never charged with a crime. But the police kept her money anyway. Nearly four years later, she is still trying to get her money back.

Ethel Hylton is just one of a large and growing list of Americans – now numbering in the hundreds of thousands – who have been victimized by civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, everything you own can be legally taken away even if you are never convicted of a crime.

Suspicion of offenses which, if proven in court, might result in a $200 fine or probation, are being used to justify seizure of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property. Totally innocent Americans are losing their cars, homes and businesses, based on the claims of anonymous informants that illegal transactions took place on their property. Once property is seized, it is virtually impossible to get it back.

Property is now being seized in every state and from every social group. Seizures include pocket money confiscated from public-housing residents in Florida; cars taken away from men suspected of soliciting prostitutes in Oregon; and homes taken away from ordinary, middle class Americans whose teenage children are accused of selling a few joints of marijuana. No person and no property is immune from seizure. You could be the next victim. Here are some examples:
Greg Ellis

United States

#5 Mar 17, 2011
In Washington, DC, police stop black men on the streets in poor areas of the city, and "routinely confiscate small amounts of cash and jewelry." Most confiscated property is not even recorded by police departments. "Resident Ben Davis calls it 'robbery with a badge.'" [USA Today, 5/18/92.]

In Iowa, "a woman accused of shoplifting a $25 sweater had her $18,000 car – specially equipped for her handicapped daughter - seized as the 'getaway vehicle.'" [USA Today, 5/18/92.]

Detroit drug police raided a grocery store, but failed to find any drugs. After drug dogs reacted to three $1.00 bills in the cash register, the police seized $4,384 from cash registers and the store safe. According to the Pittsburgh Press, over 92% of all cash in circulation in the US now shows some drug residue.

In Monmouth, New Jersey, Dr. David Disbrow was accused of practicing psychiatry without a license. His crime was providing counseling services from a spare bedroom in his mother's house. Counseling does not require a license in New Jersey. That didn't stop police from seizing virtually everything of value from his mother's home, totaling over $60,000. The forfeiture squad confiscated furniture, carpets, paintings, and even personal photographs.

Kathy and Mark Schrama were arrested just before Christmas 1990 at their home in New Jersey. Kathy was charged with taking $500 worth of UPS packages from neighbors' porches. Mark was charged with receiving stolen goods. If found guilty, they might have paid a small fine and received probation. The day after their arrest, their house, cars and furniture were seized. Based upon mere accusation,$150,000 in property was confiscated, without trial or indictment. Police even took their clothing, eyeglasses, and Christmas presents for their 10-year-old son.
The incentive for government agencies to expand forfeiture is enormous. Agencies can easily seize property and they usually keep what they take. According to the Pittsburgh Press, 80% of seizure victims are never even charged with a crime. Law enforcement agencies often keep the best seized cars, watches and TVs for their "departments", and sell the rest.

How extensive are seizures in America today? The Washington Post has reported that the US Marshals Service alone had an inventory of over $1.4 billion in seized assets, including over 30,000 cars, boats, homes and businesses. Federal and state agencies seizing property now include the FBI, the DEA, the US Marshals Service, the Coast Guard, the IRS, local police, state highway patrols, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, FDA, and the Bureau of Land Management. Asset forfeiture is a growth industry. Seizures have increased from $27 million in 1986, to over $644 million in 1991 to over $2 billion today.
Greg Ellis

United States

#6 Mar 17, 2011
Civil asset forfeiture defines a new standard of justice in America; or more precisely, a new standard of injustice. Under civil seizure, property, not an individual is charged with an offense. Even if you are a totally innocent owner, the government can still confiscate your "guilty" property.

If government agents seize your property under civil asset forfeiture, you can forget about being innocent until proven guilty, due process of law, the right to an attorney, or even the right to trial. All of those rights only exist if you are charged with a criminal offense; that is, with an offense which could result in your imprisonment. If you (or your property) are accused of a civil offense (offenses which could not result in your imprisonment), the Supreme Court has ruled that you have no presumption of innocence, no right to an attorney, and no protection from double jeopardy.

Seizure occurs when government takes away your property. Forfeiture is when legal title is permanently transferred to the state. To get seized property returned, you have to fight the full resources of your state or federal government; sometimes both! You have to prove your property's "innocence" by documenting how you earned every cent used to pay for it. You have to prove that neither you nor any of your family members ever committed an illegal act involving the property.

To get a trial, you have to post a non-refundable "bond" of 10% of the value of your property. You have to pay attorney fees – ranging from $5,000 to over $100,000 – out of your own pocket. Money you pay your attorney is also subject to seizure (either before or after the trial) if the government alleges that those funds were "tainted." And you may be forced to go through trial after trial, because under civil seizure the Constitutional protection against "double jeopardy" doesn't apply. Once your property is seized, expect to spend years fighting government agencies and expect to be impoverished by legal fees – with no guarantee of winning – while the government keeps your car, home and bank account.

In fact, in a recent Supreme Court decision (Bennis v. Michigan), the Court said explicitly that innocent owners can be deprived of their property if it's used to facilitate a crime, even without the owner's knowledge or consent. That means you can now lose your home or business because of the action of employees, relatives, or guests, over whom you have absolutely no control.

Police And Prosecutors Have The Incentive
To Confiscate As Much As Possible
Not only do police and prosecutors have the power to seize anything you own on the slightest pretext, they also have the incentive. The dirty little secret of the forfeiture racket is that police, prosecutors and judges can benefit personally by stealing your property.
Greg Ellis

United States

#7 Mar 17, 2011
Brenda Grantland – America's leading asset forfeiture defense attorney – gives these examples of government greed in her book "Your House Is Under Arrest":

Suffolk County, New York. District Attorney James M. Catterton drives around in a BMW 735I that was seized from an alleged drug dealer. He spent $3,412 from the forfeiture fund for mechanical and body work, including $75 for pin-striping.

Warren County, New Jersey. The assistant chief prosecutor drives a confiscated yellow Corvette.

Little Compton, Rhode Island. The seven member police force received $3.8 million from the federal forfeiture fund, and spent it on such things as a new 23-foot boat with trailer, and new Pontiac Firebirds.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The head of one Los Angeles police forfeiture squad claims his group personally pocketed over $60 million in seized property.

Why do our courts tolerate these outrageous legalized thefts? Because they get their cut. It's completely legal for confiscated property to be used by police, prosecutors and judges, so long as it's for official business. In 1996, a federal district court even ruled that police can personally receive 25% of the value of any confiscated home, car, or business.

Some Police Will Kill You For Your Property
In Malibu, California, park police tried repeatedly to buy the home and land of 61-year-old, retired rancher Don Scott, which was next to national park land. Scott refused. On the morning of October 2, 1992, a task force of 26 LA county sheriffs, DEA agents and other cops broke into Scott's living room unannounced. When he heard his wife, Frances, scream, he came out of his upstairs bedroom with a gun over his head. Police yelled at him to lower his gun. He did, and they shot him dead.

Police claimed to be searching for marijuana which they never found. Ventura County DA Michael Bradbury concluded that the raid was "motivated at least in part, by a desire to seize and forfeit the ranch for the government ...[The] search warrant became Donald Scott's death warrant."

We Must Stop Asset Forfeiture Now
As police confiscations become more and more outrageous, opposition has been mounting. California and several other states defeated draconian forfeiture laws a few years ago, and the Supreme Court rendered several hopeful decisions. But improvement was short-lived.

Federal, state and local governments are again expanding confiscation with little concern for justice. The latest targets: doctors who resist government-controlled medicine ... Businesses that employ illegal aliens (who sew most clothing and harvest many crops)... and gun owners.

Anything you own now can be seized at any time. Every week over 5000 innocent Americans like you now lose their cars, bank accounts, homes or businesses, without ever being charged with a crime.
Greg Ellis

United States

#8 Mar 17, 2011
Awwwwww and you thought they care about you......how sweet!

Trust me, they don't care about you, they really don't. I know you like to think they do but they don't.

It's a ruse and a scam and people buy it hook, line and sinker...Wake up already...sheesh.

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