The Supreme Court heard oral arguments recently in a case that may result in some involuntary reforms to state civil asset forfeiture laws. The case involves Tyson Timbs, an Indiana resident who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized by law enforcement after selling $260 worth of heroin to undercover cops.Despite securing a conviction, law enforcement chose to forfeit Timbs’ vehicle in civil court. This may have been to keep Timbs from challenging the seizure as excessive, given the crime he was charged with maxxed out at a $10,000 fine. This is how Timbs is challenging this forfeiture, however. That’s how this case has ended up in the top court in the land.
Police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam have launched a new pilot programme which will see them confiscating expensive clothing and jewellery from young people if they look too poor to own them.Officers say the scheme will see them target younger men in designer clothes they seem unlikely to be able to afford legally – if it is not clear how the person paid for it, it will be confiscated.The idea is to deter criminality by sending a signal that the men will not be able to hang onto their ill-gotten gains.
No job too small. That’s asset forfeiture for you. But small jobs are the safest jobs when it comes to the government keeping someone else’s property. Keeping the seizures small makes it less likely they’ll be challenged by those whose property was taken.The year-end totals may look impressive, but behind those totals are lots and lots of tiny cash grabs. In the cases where agencies’ forfeitures have been itemized and examined (which is a rarity — there’s a ton of opacity in forfeiture reporting), the largest number of forfeitures are for the smallest amounts, usually well under $1,000.Officers take what they can because they can. A video going viral on Twitter shows a California police officer rummaging through the wallet of an unlicensed street vendor and taking the vendor’s cash and debit card. A citation and a shutdown of the hot dog stand should have been enough. But it wasn’t. Officer Sean Aranas decided — with the only citation handed out during the football game — to take the man’s earnings.
Pennsylvania has some of the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the country. At the top of list of perverse incentives? 100% of proceeds go to the agency that seized the property. As a result, all sorts of abusive forfeitures occur. In one case, law enforcement seized a couple’s house because of a single $40 drug sale by their son.
Documents provided by Outside Legal Counsel show the department seized the Ostipow’s 1965 Chevy Nova SS on April 24, 2008, when the vehicle’s mileage was 73,865. [Sheriff William L.] Federspiel, who signed the vehicle title transfer form, sold the partially restored muscle car over a year later on June 4, 2009, for $1,500.The vehicle’s title certificate filled out by Federspiel around the time it was sold says the mileage was 130,000 — 54,000 miles more than when the department seized the car.
According to last year’s lawsuit against the city, Albuquerque forecasts how many vehicles it will not only seize, but sell at auction. The city’s 2016 budget estimates it will have 1,200 vehicle seizure hearings, release 350 vehicles under agreements with the property owners, immobilize 600 vehicles, and to sell 625 vehicles at auction.In fact, the Albuquerque city council approved a $2.5 million bond to build a bigger parking lot for cars seized under the DWI program. The revenue to pay for the bond will come from the DWI program.
The DEA loves taking cash from travelers so much it has hired TSA screeners as informants, asking them to look for cash when scanning luggage. It routinely stops and questions rail passengers in hopes of stumbling across money it can take from them.But it goes further than just hassling random travelers and paying government employees to be government informants. As the USA Today’s article points out, the DEA is datamining traveler info to streamline its forfeiture efforts.
[T]he Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.
Police and prison guard groups are terrified that they might lose some of the drug war money to which they have become so deeply addicted.