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Civil forfeiture laws claim another victim

Civil forfeiture laws claim another victim

Kiss your life savings goodbye!

There’s a simple explanation for why civil asset forfeiture laws are coming under fire—they ruin lives.

Not in the way a hefty speeding ticket or 7 am-on-the-dot tow “ruins lives,” but in a real, “my life savings are gone and I don’t know how I’m going to pay for my next meal” kind of way.

Take Philadelphia, for example. From 2002 to 2012, the City of Philadelphia raked in $64 million in forfeiture funds. Licensed marijuana growers in Michigan have had their homes, property, and assets seized, contributing to a 10 year, $250 million payout to law enforcement. New Mexico took in $4 million in one year based on single sniff tests by drug dogs.

The kicker? Much of what is seized by law enforcement is held without any evidence that the property owner has committed a crime.

Last year, 24 year-old Charles Clark became just one more victim of a system that benefits law enforcement at the expense of everyday citizens. He lost $11,000 after officials decided that carrying cash in an airport should be treated as a crime—even though there’s nothing unlawful about it.

The Institute for Justice has the details:

Charles saved his money for the past five years from financial aid, various jobs, educational benefits based on his mother’s status as a disabled veteran and gifts from family. Charles was visiting relatives in Cincinnati while he and his mother were moving to a new apartment back in Florida. He did not want to lose the $11,000, so he took it with him. On his way home, law enforcement officials at the airport seized Charles’ money because they claimed his checked bag smelled like marijuana. Although Charles was a recreational smoker at the time, the officers did not find any drugs or anything illegal on his person or in his carry-on or checked bag. The government should have to prove that Charles committed a crime if it wants to keep his money.

“Carrying cash is not a crime,” explained IJ Attorney Darpana Sheth. “No one should lose their life savings when no drugs or evidence of any crime are found on them or their belongings.”

The problem here is that seizure without explanation is incentivized. The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport police’s take has been comparatively low—$2 million in 2013—but they’re not the only ones who stand to benefit from Charles’ $11,000. Under a process called “equitable sharing,” even agencies who took no part in the search or seizure are entitled to a cut of forfeited funds—which means that 13 different law enforcement agencies are pushing for their cut of what airport authorities took from Charles.

There’s a reason “The Man” always seems to win these cases—that’s what happens when the federal government takes on a 24-year old they just rendered bankrupt.

The Institute for Justice has taken on Charles’ case as part of their cross-country push to take on civil forfeiture abuse. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.


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This is a win-win for the Conservatives in Congress…and everywhere else…to take on.

NOBODY can justify this. It reeks to high heaven.

    snopercod in reply to Ragspierre. | June 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Sorry, the “conservatives” in congress are too busy at the moment trying to sneak through the TPP bill.

      Estragon in reply to snopercod. | June 18, 2015 at 3:00 am

      TPP hasn’t been submitted to Congress, it is still in the final stages of negotiation. TPA – “fast track authority” – is what is under consideration now, along with a wasteful Democratic training program (TAA) being used to entice Democrats to support TPA.

      Ted Cruz explains it all to a radio host who seems to be opposed:

    Loren in reply to Ragspierre. | June 17, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    I think that conservatives in Congress of the past are who instituted this blatant violation of the 4th Amendment as a part of their “tough on crime” stance. I have little problem with being tough on crime, but prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt first, then invoke penalties!

      Ragspierre in reply to Loren. | June 17, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      This dates from RICO back in the 1970s, but has gotten worse over time (a perfect example of the “creep” in otherwise good laws).

      Periodically, even good laws have to be revisited and “pruned” to make sure they do ANYTHING good and necessary.

      This is one reason I have (brilliantly) called for automatic sunsetting of all Federal law, forcing it to be renewed or just die. No omnibus passage, either. Each law reviewed under the full passage procedure.

        Gremlin1974 in reply to Ragspierre. | June 18, 2015 at 1:00 am

        LOL, if they had to do that, the D.C. folks might actually have a real reason to spend full time in D.C., but they wouldn’t want that because then they would actually have to work and wouldn’t have time to figure out how to get more money out of the citizens.

        Estragon in reply to Ragspierre. | June 18, 2015 at 3:15 am

        Sunsetting is a good idea for most laws and should be required for all regulations issued by federal agencies.

        It is, interestingly, one of only three good ideas Jimmy Carter brought to DC in 1977 (the other two were Zero Base Budgeting – no more just debating amounts of increase – and ending double taxation of corporate dividends). All were declared DOA by Speaker Tip O’Neill and Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd, speaking for the Democratic Congress.

    It’s not really all that hard to imagine “$11,000 vs United States” becoming a class action case as the Federal Reserve has been pumping out more and more bills every day.

Thank GOD we have the 2nd Amendment, for cases like this. With NOTHING TO LOSE [and I mean NOTHING, since the gubmint took EVERYTHING], payback can be a real bitch.

    Andy in reply to walls. | June 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    As much as I appreciate the frustration, the name of the blog is “legal insurrection” not “armed insurrection.”

    Leave that sort of dialog to the #blacklivesmatter clowns.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Andy. | June 18, 2015 at 2:29 am

      Pffft! This country was born at the end of a musket, ripped from the womb of royal tyranny. As tyranny returns, so does the musket. Pick a side.

      Unfortunately armed insurrection is the logical conclusion of most of the tyranny currently being enforced upon the population of the United States.

      When political will and the rule of law fails, there WILL be those who will take up the fight. The time is not yet, but with every invasion of natural rights, enumerated rights and the destruction of the Civil Society, the time does come closer.

      If the soft tyranny of the administrative state ever becomes the hard tyranny of dictatorship or even a polyarchy, there will be those who will fight and die to refresh liberty.

Fight fire with fire. Move into their house and claim squatters rights.

Asset forfeiture should require a criminal conviction that is directly related to the assets seized.

When you spend an extraordinary amount of energy warning people that a dog bites and they act completely surprised when they get bitten, how much pity do you REALLY feel?

The dog needs to be put down, but when it bites people who say otherwise or were indifferent prior to getting bitten, my response is “welcome to the matrix.”

Civil forfeiture is an exercise of admiralty jurisdiction. Note that inanimate objects (cash, homes, cars, boats, aircraft, etc.) are the defendants (admiralty allows the blame for a crime to be placed on a ship, and allows the crew to go blameless, so a ship could be seized but the crew released), the defendants are presumed guilty and must demonstrate their innocence (or their owners must, obviously – inanimate objects can’t speak for themselves), and juries sit in an advisory capacity only (the judge can reverse a “not guilty” verdict, because the jury’s decision is not binding). These are all indicators that courts hearing “civil forfeiture” cases are sitting in admiralty. They almost certainly have oars (today, usually miniatures) on display in the court rooms to give the constitutionally-required notice of the “nature of the accusation” (i.e., the nature of the jurisdiction under which the charge has been brought). For instance:
Note that the oar was brought into the court and presented in front of the jury. This was done because normally the court was not sitting in admiralty, but when it was, the oar was brought in to signify the change in the nature of the jurisdiction being exercised in the case. Likewise, after those cases were heard the oar was then removed from the court, returning the court to its alternate (common law) jurisdiction. Note also that admiralty jurisdiction has been vested within the federal courts, not state courts. States have no authority in admiralty, so they have no authority to make “civil forfeitures” no matter how appropriate it may be for the federal government to do so.

Admiralty does not belong on the land, and its introduction to the North American continent by the British was one of the complaints made against the crown in the Declaration of Independence. Modern civil forfeiture was upheld in a state court some years ago (I believe it was in Ohio), when the court cited as precedent an admiralty case involving the seizure of a ship. In so doing it mistakenly brought the law of the sea upon the land, and it’s been a free-for-all of government seizures since then. It will take a knowledgeable attorney, guts, and a pile of money to push this atrocity back into the sea where it belongs.

    Ragspierre in reply to DaveGinOly. | June 17, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Dude, you’re wrong. Every state with navigable waters has admiralty law.

    This is one of the only places where the “reverse Erie Doctrine” applies.

This is not right. Been seeing this kind of news too many times.

Why has this not been declared unconstitutional after all these years.It only takes weeks for any abortion restriction to be declared unconstitutional.

    Andy in reply to dunce1239. | June 17, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    This is too easy to fix. As noted, there is a money trail in government causing congress to willfully keep the blinders on.

Perhaps the government should post a sign stating that the airport is a Constitution-free zone.

I am sure this is just a turn of phase but isn’t financial aide supposed to be used for educational/living expenses. If you have so much financial aide and educational benefits that you can save it up, something just doesn’t seem right. Not that what happened here was ok in any universe, but I would really like to know how he saved $11000 and attended college, when most college kids are ass deep in debt. Sorry for being cynical. It is entirely possible that he earned 99.99 % himself. The other thing that I have to wonder about is why he couldn’t just do a bank to bank transfer. Kids can do anything with an android device, there really isn’t any need to touch money anymore.

Gremlin1974 | June 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Ahhh yes, one more example of sanctioned government theft to prove that our “government” has grown well past what it was ever supposed to do or be.

So… is no one going to reflect on the fact that this is the consequence of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 which was sponsored by (R) Strom Thurmond and signed into law by Reagan?

The Party of Limited Government have a lot of repenting to do.

    Ragspierre in reply to Aucturian. | June 18, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Umm…see my comment on sunsetting (above).

    Even very good, well-crafted laws can “creep” into realms they were never intended to.

    See also Civil Rights Act(s), which the courts have extended to areas EXPLICITLY forbidden in the statutes.