It has been a year and a half since there was mention of this here. There are also posts from 2017 and 2018. This outrage has come up once again today with a post on Drudge so I thought the subject might merit its own thread.
The authorities just went nuts in Los Angeles, stealing people’s valuables without justification, using the excuse of searching for drug money . . . or whatever. Reform of the law is, and has been, desperately needed. This is nothing new. But the reform is not happening, the abuse is ongoing, and people are being significantly harmed. Here is a link to Drudge’s item, the latest incident:
Federal authorities cash in on safety box seizures
They steal your stuff and then give you the finger. Be careful out there.
The ACLU says:
Police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has shaken our nation’s conscience. Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.
Forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources. But today, aided by deeply flawed federal and state laws, many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, making seizures motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting. For people whose property has been seized through civil asset forfeiture, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult and expensive, with costs sometimes exceeding the value of the property.
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As an adjunct to the OP, I closed out my own safe deposit box a while back, moving everything to my home. If they want to seize my stuff, first they are gonna need a warrant.
And then they will have to find what it is I’m hiding. Got something less than a hundred acres here, boys. Start digging!!
This one has been brewing for several months. Not that its OK to seize peoples money at all … BUT the wrinkle in this particular story is that it was a private company that hosted the security boxes and the private company itself was accused of allegedly conspiring with criminals to launder drug money.
at least that was the fed case but apparently they didn’t have that good of case…
And it wasn’t all bogus charges though, they did actually seize actual illegal drugs in the raid.
Of course again that doesn’t make it right and even if 50% of the boxes were stuffed full of oxy and drug money and guns w/o serial #'s that certainly doesn’t warrant seizing money from dozens of innocent people.
Even if 100% of the money was drug money, the government shouldn’t be able to sidestep due process. That money is innocent until proven guilty!
On the other hand, wouldn’t you say that all the drugs and guns w/o serials recovered were fair game for seizure? I don’t see how you’d dispute that the drugs and illegal guns were involved in a crime since they’re pretty much the very evidence for these specific crimes.
Now if in the same boxes as drugs and illegal guns, money was recovered, wouldn’t that count as pretty good circumstantial evidence that they money may have been involved in the criminal activity connected to the other items found in the same safe and thus could be legally seized?
Beyond that, if only cash was found in a safe, I think the case for illegal seizure becomes very strong. No matter what you suspect of someone stuffing $900+k in a safe deposit box anynomously, it’d be a stretch to call the mere fact of hoarding that much cash, sufficient evidence of criminal activity connection.
Actually no, that’s the problem with asset forfeiture rules. They get to take it first and you have to prove it wasn’t illegally obtained or involved.
Either way, they shouldn’t be taking anything without warrants, but they are and that’s the problem. If they were looking for one guys stuff in these lock boxes and found a bunch of other drugs and money from unrelated people, they should not get to use that as evidence or for seizure since they had no justification to be doing it.
The problem here is twofold - the law that allows asset seizure in the first place without due process, and the judge that signed off on letting the search all these boxes instead of a narrow request.
Sure there are issues with the lack of warrant - or in this case the now narrow enough warrant given to the FBI.
But the main problem is the incentives for police departments or FBI to aggressively pursue civil forfeitures. The ones performing the civil forfeitures keeping the money seized is IMO the source of the worst excesses. Without this incentive, a lot of the instances of abuse would go away.
There should at least be a timeframe in which they’re required to bring charges related to the seized assets, or return them to the owner. Placing the burdon on the owners to show the seizure was not appropriate is the root problem.
Totally agree. This is really an instance of vague hunch and random suspicions being legitimately freely turned into a guilty unless proven innocent process. How it is legal is beyond belief.
That’s the root of the problem. People have rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to counsel, even if you can’t afford it. Your property doesn’t. Who’s gonna spend 20k on a civil suit against the government after they seized 19k? The feds have unlimited resources and time, at least from the little guy’s perspective.
We could fix civil forfeiture abuses by making the suits for recovery free to the plaintiffs.
That’s not nearly enough. The onus has to be on the state to prove that the property is related to a crime, and one that a person is actually convicted of. Otherwise there’s a presumption of guilt, which is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.
ETA, because this flagrant violation of our liberties incenses me so:
Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Fifth Amendment: “…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”
I like the idea, but we could make the recovery free of legal charges, and trebled. That still wouldn’t stop the police/FBI/others from making the seizures.
It wouldn’t stop them for the same reason kids/teens/adults, particularly in the hood, continue to deal drugs despite the short life expectancy. The rewards are worth the risk.
One additional note about sd boxes, unrelated to asset forfeiture, is that nothing in a sd box is insured, unless by your own insurance. The bank is not liable for anything that happens to it or its contents. This makes perfect sense, but is, surprisingly, a surprise to lots of people.
What you wrote is true, but this story was not about a bank, it was a private not-a-bank vault. They may have the same T&C, or maybe they offer or include insurance.
The problem is “the problem” is the result of fear mongering. Yes, there are always examples of abuse, but those are outliers. Most people with assets seized ‘had it coming’, and thus they’re not going to be pursuing the outrageous constitutional violations of the situation because they’re quite obviously the bad guy. The victims of such policies are few, and thus the odds of it happening to someone with the means and inclination to pursue a constitutional argument to the levels it needs to be pursued are slim.
If there are well documented abuses, it’s hard to see how it can only be fear mongering. The burden of proof is the lowest, the accountability is virtually no existent since you don’t need to prove connection to a crime or bring charges, there is inherent conflict of interest through the federal equitable sharing program, and there is little duty of public reporting on what assets were seized and how the money was used. It’s hard to argue that it does not beg to be abused and is frequently so.
And the solutions are relatively simple. Just look at what Maine passed to curb the abuses. They required the owner of the assets to be convicted of a crime in which the assets seized were involved, bars the police departments from participating in the federal equitable sharing program to remove conflicts of interest, and reports the assets seized publicly for accountability. Extended to all States, that’d go a long way towards making sure it’s not abused.
Agreed. The piece I referenced in the OP states that the outrageous confiscations were committed six months ago and remain standing today with no sign of relief for the many victims. For some, their life savings have been seized without cause or justification. It’s all they have, and after a full six months there is no indication the government has any intention whatsoever of making restitution. This is not fear mongering. This is real, unvarnished, abuse.
I always forget about the “they had it coming” exception to the fifth amendment!
Also, it’s not fearmongering. Tell me how these people had it coming?
How well documented it is has nothing to do with how often it happens. No one is claiming it doesn’t happen, the claim is that it’s highly unlikely to happen to you unless you are in fact “dirty”. So while the solutions may be simple, the motivation to pursue and fix the problem is severely lacking, because it’s seen as helping criminals.
That safety deposit vault is the first incident that may involve enough of the right people to truly challenge these policies.