Spoils of Drug War Forfeitures Prove Too Lucrative

Spoils of Drug War Forfeitures Prove Too Lucrative
Posted by FoM on March 26, 2002 at 19:59:27 PT
Source: The Monitor TX
Not since Edward Teach first prowled the high seas in pursuit of merchant ships as a “privateer” for the British crown has a war on commerce been so profitable. What separated him from today’s drug warriors, though, is that Teach eventually crossed the line into out-and-out piracy as the notorious outlaw Blackbeard, ultimately to be hunted down and killed. The agencies that prosecute America’s war on drugs need fear no reprisal. 
They seize and benefit from substantial loot — houses, boats, cars, planes, etc., along with wads and wads of cash — with the law’s full blessing.And they don’t even have to prove the guilt of the alleged drug dealers whose ill-gotten gains have been impounded. Needless to say, no one who hoisted the Jolly Roger over the Spanish Main ever had it so good.In Colorado, two state lawmakers are introducing a measure to rein in this forfeiture power when wielded by law officers in that state. The move follows legislation by Congress a couple of years ago limiting federal agents’ ability to seize assets. Forfeiture power, initiated on the hopeful premise it could undermine drug traffickers by depriving them of their lucre, has become a cynical game on the part of government. The ability to take possessions of alleged wrongdoers — it doesn’t even have to involve the drug trade; it could be used against anyone presumed to be involved in any felonious activity — has turned into not only an unjustifiable penalty but also a reliable, and relied-upon, source of revenue for law enforcement.One lawmaker says police have seized cars, cell phones, jewelry and guns and then used them in subsequent undercover work — or sold the property and used the proceeds for pizzas, parties and, in the case of one police department, an aquarium. The pending Colorado legislation would redirect the property and proceeds from forfeitures toward services such as treatment programs and to innocent co-owners of the seized property, such as family members. Indeed, there have been cases around the country in which children were deprived of their homes because dad was thought to be a dope peddler.The reason authorities have been able to get away with it is that the assets are disposed of under civil rather than criminal laws, meaning the state has less to prove in court than it does in pressing criminal charges against the suspects themselves.That also means that even if the property’s owner is tried and acquitted, he doesn’t necessarily recover his belongings because it’s a separate legal action. Often, the legal costs in fighting the civil case are prohibitive and sometimes, by the time the criminal case is resolved, the property as been auctioned off — with proceeds going to the local constabulary.Accordingly, the legislation aims to shift the burden of proof for civil forfeitures to the government and to raise the legal standard for seizures prior to a conviction. It would require that, in most cases, a property owner be convicted of a crime before any forfeiture. Texas and other states should follow Colorado’s lead and protect property from being seized in cases where no crime has been proved.Law enforcement agencies’ resources should not derive from arrests that didn’t even result in a conviction. That, in effect, penalizes the innocent. Let’s not sully law enforcement’s noble mission by reducing it to thinly veiled piracy. Complete Title: Spoils of Drug War Forfeitures Prove Too Lucrative for Police Source: The Monitor (TX)Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 Copyright: 2002 The MonitorContact: letters themonitor.comWebsite: http://www.themonitor.comRelated Articles & Web Site:F.E.A.R. Gave Your Rights Away? War Redux - Reason Magazine
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Comment #6 posted by Lehder on March 28, 2002 at 04:15:04 PT
a medicine to feed the disease
Indeed, there have been cases around the country in
   which children were deprived of their homes because dad was thought to be a dope
   peddler.The article offers Colorado's newly proposed legislation as a solution:The pending Colorado legislation would redirect the property and proceeds from forfeitures
   toward services such as treatment programs and to innocent co-owners of the seized
   property, such as family members.Innocent co-owner? In an acrimonious divorce, for example, an innocent co-owning husband will plant dope on his wife or simply whisper that she sells dope and become an innocent full-owner. The War on Drugs is designed to destroy society by destroying, one by one, all human relationships. It has decimated the lives of millions of honest and productive people and empowered the most vicious and unworthy people in country with brutal authority over all others. At the top of the heap we now present to the world our nuclear lunatic George Bush. The final result of the War on Drugs will be nuclear war. Thanks to all the mindless assholes who support the intolerance of a Drug Free America.While these tactics
               have been routinely
               used by police states
               to control their
               populations, they can
               also be a very
               effective means of
               destroying a free
               society from within. It
               should alarm anyone
               who values their
               freedom that we're
               now seeing these
               same tactics being
               put into practice in
               America today.
               Consider the tactics
               that are being
               employed in what is
               claimed to be a war
               on drugs, but which
               is increasingly
               becoming a war on
               the basic principles
               of our free society.               It started with a
               campaign to
               demonize drug
               dealers - a class of
               citizens who only
               exist because
               prohibition has
               created an artificially
               profitable market for
               their products. All
               drug dealers could be
               instantly eliminated
               by eliminating the
               socially destructive
               prohibition that props
               up their market, but
               that would also end
               the justification for
               eroding civil liberties.
               Instead the tactic of
               choice is to flood the
               media with
               messages promoting
               as heroes those who
               spy on their
               neighbors and turn in
               drug dealers.
               Claiming to be
               motivated by concern
               for the safety of
               children, the schools
               are increasingly
               being used to turn
               students into
               informants for the
               authorities.               Having broken down
               the principle of
               respecting each
               other's privacy with
               the manufactured
               fear of the drug war
               as justification, it's
               proving an easy step
               to expand the
               practice to other
               imagined offenses.
               The media treats as
               heroes those who
               spy on their
               neighbors and make
               accusations of child
               abuse, improper care
               of pets, or engaging
               in a growing list of
               proscribed activities.
               What gets far less
               media coverage is
               that many of these
               accusations turn out
               to be unfounded. Nor
               does the media like
               to report on the
               amount of trouble our
               increasingly intrusive
               government causes
               for the falsely
               accused.               Snooping and
               gossiping have now
               been elevated into
               honored functions of
               protecting society
               from imagined
               threats. Those
               among us who have
               long wanted to
               dictate to others how
               to live their lives now
               believe they've been
               empowered to
               persecute anyone
               who doesn't conform
               to the dictator's view
               of a proper life-style.
               And these former
               busybodies turned
               defenders of society
               are very eager to
               take on this imagined
               new duty.               Each intrusion on our
               civil liberties appears
               a worthy cause on a
               superficial level. But
               none are of greater
               value than the basic
               principles of a free
               society that are
               compromised when
               citizens begin to spy
               on each other and
               become agents of
               Every society that
               has allowed its
               citizens to be turned
               against each other
               has degraded into
               some form of
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on March 27, 2002 at 06:03:03 PT:
I wonder if there are treatment programs
for kleptomaniacs addicted to DrugWar forfeiture funding? Withdrawal symptoms must be terribly painful...but not anywhere near as painful as it's been for the true victims of these 'victims' of their own greed. 
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Comment #4 posted by Jose Melendez on March 27, 2002 at 04:47:41 PT
trouble finding the original
comment # 3 was from: trouble finding the original (complete) story...
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Comment #3 posted by Jose Melendez on March 27, 2002 at 04:46:25 PT
great story!
As a drug warrior for the Cumberland County Sheriffs Office, I saw countless innocent people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and property.  Until the authorities arrested my son for selling marijuana out of my car, which he did without my knowledge and certainly without my consent, and seized my car, I had no idea how vulnerable innocent property owners can be.  
New Jersey's forfeiture law encourages police departments to take property for their own enrichment, even when the owner has not been accused of any crime.  Only when the tables were turned did I see what's wrong with the system.  As a member of the drug task force, I was regularly sent on raids to capture drugs, cash and other property from suspected offenders.  I often wondered why we were never going after the big guys.  Then it clicked: It was more profitable to go after a lot of small-time dealers who didn't have the resources to fight us rather than to focus on a few bigger guys.  The emphasis on civil asset forfeiture is on easy profit, not justice, and certainly not on stopping the flow of drugs into our communities.  
What if YOUR drugs were illegal?
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on March 26, 2002 at 20:28:19 PT
Did someone say Lucrative?
"Don't believe the media!", DISHONESTY WON'T WIN WAR ON DRUGS: Yes, there's real money in the drug war. Unfortunately, most of it goes to the bad guys. And that's the real truth. DRUG WARRIORS ARE DODGING CONSTITUTION And this one - POLICE SEIZURES VIOLATE INNOCENT OWNERS' RIGHTS is a story about a cop who got his car forfeited by the cops and did not like it.
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on March 26, 2002 at 20:11:22 PT
has quite a few news stories out now about this issue. This one caught my mind, with its ignoidal backward thinking. Pueblo's district attorney said Thursday that his office can't afford to buy computers, cameras and other equipment without proceeds from property confiscated under Colorado's civil forfeiture law. Gus Sandstrom Jr. said the law is working just fine, and he doesn't want the legislature to change it. "We're desperate for dollars. We can't keep up with the crooks without the forfeitures," Sandstrom said. "We use the money to make up for the training the city and county can't pay for and to buy equipment. PUEBLO DA INSISTS FORFEITURE LAW NEEDED 
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