CNN did a decent story on an issue we have covered several times on Crimcourts. It’s worth checking out, be sure to check the video for the setup, in addition to the text story. The guys featured were legally carrying money for poker, and the cops grabbed it all. The Justice Department has been stepping back from participating in these civil asset forfeitures. There is a private company running seminars teaching cops how to do this… officers are literally planning to come up with ways to seize citizen property: that’s scary.
Thanks for sharing, Michael.
US Attorney General has announced that the Department of Justice will stop allowing local and state police from using Federal law to conduct seizures and forfeitures of property. More than $3 billion in property have been seized since 2008 in a program known as equitable sharing. According to the Washington Post: A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”
Agencies are still allowed to seek forfeitures under State laws. Florida has pretty broad forfeiture statutes. Florida authorities have and will continue to seize property, even after warrantless searches where no drugs or contraband are found. This just means the Federal Government decided to stop assisting and encouraging these and other local authorities.
From the Washington Post, via code3.jalopnik.com
This opinion article in the New York Times suggests that they are. Even if there is not direct inducement, there are no ramifications for officers if they lie, and the system encourages numbers and, as we’ve discussed recently on Crimcourts, forfeitures of property. The system is set up to encourage arrests, and not as the old adage implies, to protect and serve. While I don’t think the majority of cops are liars, you see it with some frequency in a criminal practice. It’s not just drug cases, but even little things like traffic tickets. And misjudged priorities and a lack of accountability can compound the problem. Again, more cameras will help demonstrate the truth and be better for everybody.
Yesterday I discussed the growing practice of property forfeitures by law enforcement- even when there is not evidence to support an arrest, and how those seizures can be challenged. I was inspired by a video from John Oliver’s This Week, Tonight, that posted on Huffington Post. Yesterday, Forbes.com and Yahoo did their own article, also referencing the John Oliver video. Their article is worth a read, as well. And here is a link to the John Oliver bit, if you’ve got 15 minutes:
Law enforcement forfeitures are on the rise across the country. Cops see forfeiture as an easy way to enhance their bottom line, or to pick up some toys that they can’t otherwise get approved in their budgets. And in many State’s, the agency that does the forfeited often gets to keep the majority of the property seized, which sadly can incentivize some law enforcement agencies to be too aggressive in their seizure policies. The more they grab, the more they get to keep, and that’s a recipe for abuse of the system, especially because it is difficult to for people to fight the forfeitures. We’ve talked about the risk of abuse before on Crimcourts. John Oliver recently did a great take on the issue on “This Week, Tonight,” which is worth the 15 minutes to watch.
However, it is not impossible to fight a forfeiture. You have a right to challenge a forfeiture in court, and should talk to an experienced attorney right away. Cops will attempt a forfeiture even when the evidence doesn’t support it. They will claim a suspicion that a crime is being committed, based on their ‘training and experience’, and presumptively seize the property. However, a hunch isn’t enough to prove the case in court. The must demonstrate criminal activity by a preponderance of the evidence, and convince a jury of it. If the cops do try to seize your property, you should definitely exercise your right to fight the forfeiture.
Florida actually provides several different stages of challenging a forfeiture, and there are time considerations, which mean you should retain an attorney to help you as soon as possible. First, there are several technical filing requirements the state must follow before a forfeiture will be granted. The person who’s property is being seized has a right to a preliminary hearing, that means if they state is holding your property, they must demonstrate to a court why they should be permitted to hold it. And finally, the person has a right to make them prove their case to a jury at trial, and all of the defenses available on a criminal charge can be argued, as well as some particular to seizure cases. It can be a long, arduous process, but one that may be fruitful to follow through on.
If your property has been seized, you should contact me or another expereinced attorney right away.
Posted in Civil, Criminal Law, Drugs, Florida, Forfeiture, Police, Uncategorized
Tagged badcops, forfeiture, john oliver, seizure, spencer Cordell