Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bigger Pie Forum: More Reform Needed for Civil Asset Forfeiture

This is a sponsored post by Bigger Pie Forum.  

In Mississippi just 18 months ago, law enforcement agencies enjoyed a “eat what you kill” system where they could merely tie property or cash to a crime to a judge and be able to seize it, even if the property owner wasn’t charged with a crime.  The property owner would have to file suit in civil court within 30 days to recover their property or else the agency would get to keep the property.


Property owners who found themselves at the wrong end of the forfeiture system in Mississippi would often let the government keep their property without a challenge simply because of the cost associated with a challenge.
Worst of all, law enforcement agencies in Mississippi didn’t have to keep any records of their forfeitures, either.
Giving law enforcement agencies the ability to take property and cash from citizens while using the proceeds to pad their budgets is antithetical to limited government.
Now, progress has been made in the Mississippi Legislature to overturn this unconstitutional encroachment on private property rights.  Two years ago, a bill was signed into law that forced law enforcement agencies to keep records of forfeitures for submission on a database run by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.  They must also submit a forfeiture warrant to a judge for review.
Last year, the law that authorized administrative forfeiture was quietly allowed to expire.  Administrative forfeiture allowed law enforcement agencies to seize property with a value less than $20,000 and not even have to file paperwork with a court explaining the basis for the seizure.
These are two important, but first steps in reform — more needs to be addressed.
First, the forfeiture database doesn’t require law enforcement officials to list the type of drug that was involved with the seizure, the circumstances of the seizure or whether charges were filed in connection with the seizure.  Adding this to existing law would help give citizens a more transparent view into civil asset forfeiture.
There’s also going to be push in the Legislature this session to bring back administrative forfeiture.  Bringing back this forfeiture without oversight from the court system is an invitation to mischief.
The ultimate goal of this reform needs to be what Nebraska, New Mexico and North Carolina have done — and that’s completely outlaw civil asset forfeiture.  Property owners should be charged with a crime in order for law enforcement agencies to seize their property and a conviction should result in forfeiture.

Kingfish note: The Clarion-Ledger reported yesterday:


Dozens of police chiefs and sheriffs lined a corridor of the state Capitol Monday afternoon, shaking hands and chatting up representatives as they walked from the elevator to the House chamber

They want their administrative asset forfeiture back.

Only the Legislature can give it to them.

In rough terms, judicial asset forfeiture requires legal action before a judge to keep the goods. Administrative asset forfeiture requires law enforcement to notify property owners about the seizure.

Supporters of administrative asset forfeiture say property owners have 30 days to contest any seizure in court.

Opponents say many people cannot afford to hire an attorney to get their property back.

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy — which opposes reviving administrative asset forfeiture — reviewed public data on property seizures from the last year and half and found that almost half of all seizures "were valued at less than $1,000."

The center argued that in many instances, hiring a lawyer to contest a seizure would cost more money than the worth of the seized property.... Rest of article.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

WAR ON DRUGS. Remember, there's too much money involved for the cops not to get some of it. They can seize a little or get paid a lot (from the drug dealers). The WAR is just too damn lucrative not to get paid! $$$$$$

Anonymous said...

Has a single law abiding citizen forfeited their property to law enforcement in the state of MS? Because so far all I've seen is punishment of criminals and the rewarding of hard working and poorly compensated law enforcement.

If you aren't doing anythin wrong then you have nothing to fear. These ACLU leftists have helped crime explode in urban centers with criminal parasites being fed and sheltered by the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so hard for people to do the right thing for the right reasons that it requires legislation to mandate, lawyers hired to litigate, and judges required to pontificate what should be clearly evident in the beginning?

Anonymous said...

Please stay on this JJ. In many cases, this is literally highway robbery. Only difference is the robber is wearing a badge and will never be prosecuted. Although I appreciate the job our LE does, they should NOT be put on a pedestal and never questioned; that's what leads to the likes of the SS.

Anonymous said...

Civil forfeiture is theft. If the individual is convicted of a crime and their property is proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be derived from criminal proceeds, it should be forfeited. Civil forfeiture has none of those protections and is simply theft. Police shouldn't be forced to supplement their budgets by targeting cash - they should be targeting people who commit violent crimes!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, 10:43, you most definitely are not a true conservative.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is where your mindset gets you.

When the far left and the far right politicians agree on an issue, guess what? They are nearly ALWAYS correct. Why? Because there isn't money blinding them in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Drug dealers and transporters can have in their possession more cash money than the average police officer makes in a lifetime. No joke. Some do not count their money they weigh it! The temptation put on an officer making a bust is real. At the moment of arrest there's nobody to audit the stuff being seized. At that moment you can allow the cops to "wet their beaks" legally or they will surely "skim a little off the top" illegally and take the risk. But their just too much money to ignore the whole thing.

P.S. Every now and then there's the street "okey doke". We keep your stuff you walk. Everybody wins.

Anonymous said...

There are numerous cases of abuse of asset forfeiture; and claims by law enforcement and regulatory bodies of transaction structuring, money laundering, etc. One of the main issues is that very few LE and regulatory enforcement folks take the time to research certain cash-based businesses, and that any large sum of cash MUST be suspicious and illegal.

Once again we see process as punishment and a lack of due process.

I'm in full support of separating criminals with their ill-gotten gains, but there needs to be a reasonable process by which law abiding citizens can prove the origin of their cash without hiring an army of attorneys just to keep what they've earned.

Here are a few cases:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2016/06/29/maryland-dairy-farmer-beats-the-irs-will-recover-nearly-30000-seized-through-civil-forfeiture/#24e6f0867337

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/1/16686014/phillip-parhamovich-civil-forfeiture

https://www.dailysignal.com/2015/09/29/4-startling-forfeiture-abuse-stories/

Professionally_Sketchy_Guy said...

Theft is still theft, even when the police do it.

Anonymous said...

Giving Law Enforcement an incentive to pursue only certain types of crimes is a recipe for abuse. I'm all for criminals that have been found guilty forfeiting assets, but seizing property from an alleged perpetrator without due process just because he can't fight back financially seems like an abuse of power.

Anonymous said...

I am a big supporter of Law Enforcement but this is a scary slippery slope to me that erodes Constitutional freedoms and should scare everyone. If I get a speeding ticket, will they confiscate my vehicle used in the commission of that crime? Where does this non-sense end!??,

Anonymous said...

First, in the past, the attorney for the law enforcement agency was required to aver on a document that the seizure was in fact drug related . Secondly, were it a car or other traceable asset, the agency was required to notify the potentially 'innocent owner' or title owner of the seizure and advise them how to file to get their asset back. If they complain they shouldn't have to pay to file, they should have thought of that when they gave their car to a druggie. Too many times drug dealers had vehicles in someone else's name on purpose so it couldn't be seized when caught or so they hoped. There is oversight, check and balance and no law enforcement agency that I have known is in this to steal non drug related assets. Some of you take the ACLU at its word and run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Anonymous said...

@11:11AM
No I never claimed to be a weak conservative, they are half of the problem in this country.

I'm not ashamed to admit that Fascism is the only way to right this sinkong ship. Every day we suffer the rotten fruit produced by the corrupt tree of democracy.

The smart future is in unity and strong leadership. That includes the removal of those who refuse to bear the burden of the fasces.

Anonymous said...

Dickie Scruggs used tobacco settlement money to bribe judges and deny all of us a fair and honest legal system. Was that a habit he developed after the tobacco settlement or before? Had he been selling an ounce of pot when he was busted, he'd be broke. He's still a billionaire.

But yes, let every flat foot statewide take everything from some kid with dope in the car. No need to prove any wrong doing, nor that the gains were ill gotten. These kids deserve to be robbed. They never learned that the way to get rich in Mississippi is not with a mask, gun, or prohibited substance...but with a tie.

I think forfeiture is abominable and rife for abuse. I think it's even more absurd it's a bludgeon wielded against the powerless; worst witch hunt ever. If the kid slinging the dope gets out of the joint and founds a non-profit...can he have his seized assets back to fund it?

Anonymous said...

Michael Guest.......

Anonymous said...

I used to work doing civil forfeitures. It is far too easily abused. The intent of the law is often ignored.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a drug dealer. I'm for the this law.

Anonymous said...

People dont realize how often this law is abused. If you are traveling thru airport with 20,000.00 and you happened to sit on your flight next to a weed head, they can stop you and say we smell something on you so we are going to seize your funds. You cant be for smaller government, conservative, and then say but law enforcement can seize your funds without proving you guilty of a crime. And most law enforcement officials are great people who put their lives at risk for very few dollars. But to say there is not one officer in the State of Mississippi who will take advantage of a law is not realistic.

Anonymous said...

2:03, doesn't matter if you you're a drug dealer or not. Denying you due process means they don't bother to determine whether or not you are before confiscating your property.

And it's not like these bureaucracies will quit once 'drug dealer' revenue dries up. They'll end up taking from you or yours. Folks are pretty slow to surrender money or power.

Anonymous said...

1:24, correct - I retired from LE and we used to prioritize cases based on the value of the potential seizure, not the scope or severity of the offense(s). Gotta get that diaper money!

I support Sheriff Bailey said...

Why would anyone except a criminal or terrorist carry sacks full of money? They government has wanted us to use banks since 9/11. Innocent people don't fear the scrutiny of authority. The only people who are effected by this are drug dealing criminal scum from outside the state.

I'm still waiting one someone to prove that this has been abused in Mississippi.

The Accountant said...

The STATE (means the government) should not be incentivized to take private property for the public gain. There is always some abuse. Every asset seizure and forfeiture should be reviewed by a real judge. If it is determined that the property should not have been seized for any reason, the STATE should have to bear the legal cost to the rightful property owner for his/her legal recovery efforts. Too many citizens have been abused by law enforcement officers who may have had good intentions or bad intentions. I have seen this with my own eyes and have seen the refunds or returns made to citizens many months or even years after the property was improperly seized. By the way, I am not a criminal or drug-head either. I am a law-abiding citizen who believes in the right to own property, including cash, and that any such seizure should be made in only the most extreme instances and with extreme due process of law. The administrative seizure law is a law that may be well intended, but leads invariably to many abuses.

Anonymous said...

5:10; exactly. All depends on what’s at stake. I saw a run at a paid for, luxury car over a pipe and residue. True story.

Anonymous said...

There are hundreds of thousands of households in this state who do not have bank accounts because they are poor or have had financial difficulties in their lives. They deal in cash because that is the only choice they have. This sets them up to have their money taken. Asset forfeiture without a full court proceeding is nothing but theft.

Anonymous said...

I always wonder what the cancer research centers will do if they cured cancer. Would all of the employees just go away and all the clinics and hospitals close? Would the pharmaceuticals and their shareholders say "what an accomplishment"?

It's like the war on drugs. If you are profiting from the war then you really don't want it to end. Allow enough of the product to get through while taking your cut and using it to fund your department.

Anonymous said...

5:09 It does matter if you are a drug dealer or not. This law doesn't allow the cops to take property from innocent people. It is not abused. The sky is not falling. People shouldn't fall for these scare tactics and they won't. This law will be put back in place. Relax. Don't deal drugs and if you do, do it from a junk car like most drug dealer's do. If it can be proven it's drug money then why would anyone care unless they are ok with drug dealers giving their money to lawyers to handle their case.........wait a minute, I see something through the mist now.

Anonymous said...

@6:14
Dont be naive. If you show me the poor individual with no bank account but has sacks full of cash then I will show you a likely criminal committing fraud to get federal and state benefits.

That's why many people don't get a bank accounts but keep thousands in cash... FRAUD.

Anonymous said...

Those who would trade freedom for security often wind up with neither.

Anonymous said...

Cop bootlickers make me sick

Anonymous said...

This has been so successful at ending the war on drugs.

Anonymous said...

to jan 31 @3;59pm ,if you are traveling through an airport with $20,000 undeclared dollers, you gonna have alot more to worry about than sitting next to a weed head and getting a contact odor. its a federal crime to travel through an airport with more than 10,000$ without declaring it.

Anonymous said...

to jan 31@ 5:23............i carry alot of cash on my person and im not a criminal or a terrorist. maybe i just dont like or trust credit cards and like the convenience of cash. if you dont like the cash economy in this country maybe you should take your credit card and buy a one way ticket to a more enlightened country and move there. may i suggest iran, north korea, sub-Saharan africa, cuba , or red china.

Anonymous said...

It takes a real dumb-ass to say something like "If you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about".

Anonymous said...

5:33, we presented a well-supported state RICO case to an ADA with tons of assets to seize and a history of criminal violations going back at least 20 years (the family we were investigating NEVER made an honest dollar) and we got shot down - we ultimately found out that the offender was a big contributor to the DA - we gave that information to the FBI and more than 10 years later I'm still waiting!

The point is, we spent a lot of time (nearly a year) making a very strong case, not only with the intent of depriving a criminal of his ill-gotten gains, but to put a career criminal and his crew in jail, only to be shot down by a corrupt public official....but that's the great thing about retirement, I just don't give a shit any more.

Anonymous said...

putting someone in prison AND seizing their assets constitutes a violation if the double jeperody clause . you cant be punished twice for the same offense. the double jeperody clause is not a daytime tv game show. its in the us constitution. so is the taking clause, which prohibits the taking of property without due process. but hey, ..... im only talking about the united states constitution, which is the most ignored document in government. go ask you dumb-ass legislators about those two clauses. but wait until they sober up after a big night at ticos with their lobbyist buddies

Anonymous said...

"I'm still waiting one someone to prove that this has been abused in Mississippi."

So, 5:23, you require proof before considering forfeiture to be a bad thing, but you believe law enforcement needn't prove a thing before seizing the property of others? Wow, that's some amazing cognitive dissonance.

We live in a state where we understand that far too many of our small town law enforcement cannot be trusted to run radar, yet we think it's okay to take the property of others without benefit of trial or having proved guilt of committing a crime?

Please look up the map of the city of Morton. They annexed a single road going south from 80 so they could rob the highways. See that single Flowood marked car on 55/20 intersection? That's because the city limits barely touch it and they're plundering as well. New Richland police headquarters was funded by what?

I carry cash, keep cash, do transactions in cash because it's a fantastic way to budget. Try negotiating a car deal in cash. It's fun. Dave freaking Ramsey has an entire money management system based on envelopes of cash devoted to different line items. It is none of your damned business why I have cash.

And to think some of you call yourselves 'small government.'

Anonymous said...

Conservatives and liberals both support reform or repeal. But the legislature is scared of the law enforcement lobby, which is formidable, Bryant is a former deputy so this system is engrained in him, and Dowdy is a 140 pound tough guy wannabe. Not a good playing field for making a case about the constitution

Anonymous said...

10:46 - so which would you choose - jail or asset forfeiture? And it's not double jeopardy - do some research before you shoot your mouth off.

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