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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Law - "Should Police Be Allowed to Keep Property Without a Criminal Conviction?"

That is the headling of a long, timely article today by Scott Rodd of Stateline, a publication of the PEW Charitable Trusts. And it focuses on Indiana.

The article begins:

When Sean Devonish and Jeremy Keets, two friends from Indianapolis, set out for a weekend trip to Cincinnati in 2013, they anticipated a few relaxing days out of town. Instead, they wound up having to hand over $16,500 in cash to officers from the Hamilton County Regional Narcotics Unit — without ever being charged with a crime.

The two men were pulled over on Interstate 74 for a lane violation and consented to a search of their vehicle, which is when the officers discovered the $16,500 — money that was intended for gambling at the casino and shopping in the city, according to their attorneys.

Hamilton County is a hotbed of interstate drug activity, and the Regional Narcotics Unit makes regular drug busts along the highways heading into and out of Cincinnati. In this case, however, officers seized the money based on the mere suspicion — without evidence — that it was tied to criminal activity. After county prosecutors proceeded with a civil forfeiture case, a county judge determined the money had no connection to a crime. The $16,500 was returned to Devonish and Keets, but only after two years of court battles and several thousand dollars in attorneys’ fees.

Civil asset forfeiture, a practice that allows law enforcement to permanently seize property without pressing criminal charges, funnels hundreds of millions of dollars into state and federal coffers every year. According to a 2015 report by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit civil liberties law firm, net proceeds from civil forfeitures across 14 states more than doubled between 2002 and 2013, jumping from around $100 million to $250 million. Net assets in forfeiture funds within the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury Department exploded during this time as well, climbing from less than $1 billion in 2001 to nearly $4.5 billion in 2014.

As proceeds from civil forfeiture have swelled, so has the controversy surrounding the practice. A number of states are considering changes — from creating tracking systems that promote transparency to effectively banning forfeitures without a criminal conviction.

For much more, start with this Jan. 17th ILB post headed "Could Indiana pass forfeiture reform this year?"

And recall the widely-reported happening from yesterday, here via a story in Politico by Louis Nelson headed "Trump invites sheriff to 'destroy' Texas state lawmaker who opposes asset forfeiture."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 8, 2017 02:03 PM
Posted to General Law Related