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Friday, February 19, 2010

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Radley Balko finds his way onto the pages of Slate, exposing a nasty little habit of the US government.

Civil asset forfeiture, an outgrowith of the drug war, rests on the legal theory that property can be guilty of a crime. Once authorities establish a nexus between a piece of property and criminal activity—most commonly drug cases, but also prostitution, DWI, and white collar crime—the owner must prove his innocence or lose his property, even if he's never charged with an underlying crime. In most jurisdictions, seized cash and the proceeds from the auctioned property go back to the police departments and prosecutors' offices responsible for the seizure. The scheme, which creates unsavory incentives for public officials, became popular because of a 1984 federal bill designed to encourage aggressive enforcement.

Don't you love the War on Drugs? One infringement on our rights soon leads to others. What began as dictating to adults what they can do with their own bodies, has slid into plain old fashioned looting. To undermine one right is to undermine them all. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on February 19, 2010 | Permalink


Actually I could accept this, provided that property could only be seized from a convicted criminal and it had also been proved (without any doubt) that the property had been purchased with proceeds from the crime in question. However, the way it works has nothing in common, so we have the government behaving like a Mafia thug.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-02-19 6:58:45 PM

Alain, not only that it is tough to argue against this and win politically.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-20 1:54:44 AM

That's nothing. In or about 2001, Ontario's Progressive Conservatives brought in a similar confiscation law but: no "nexus" to an actual crime need be proven under the PC's law...it is necessary only that the property might one day be used in a crime...say, a computer...

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-02-20 8:39:49 AM

We need more people like Marc Emery in crime.. someone who will make $15,000,000.00
breaking the law and give $4,000,000.00 away

Really..what's a missing mere $ 11,000,000.00
when we're talking the right to engage in creative anarchy and selling drugs around the world ?

And we remind you there is no such as the myth of " Mental Illness" - its just honest, manic enthusiasm pocking abnd choossing which codes to comply with and which ones to side step operating in an oppressive climate of democracy run by boring law & order freaks

Walk right into Marc Emerys store and just tale anything you want and don't pay for it, g]he won;t mind. He's enlightened enough to let you do what ever you want if you let him do what he wants.. and if you get caught by the control freaks ( NOT Mr Emerys electronic security system at the front door of his shop )_ Mr McKeever is a famous lawyer and will probably defend you for just the honour of serving justice,

..Go ahead everybody, shoplift with confidence..

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-20 10:02:47 AM

Always a class act 419....Paul isn't that famous, but he should be..

A depressing, but necessary, point Paul. So basically the police can seize any piece of property they want? Since anything might one day be used in a crime. I doubt one in a hundred people in this province knows about laws like this. That their rights are at the mercy of the state.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-20 10:26:32 AM

Yes it would be nice if more criminals were like Emery - easy to catch and prosecute, and no one cares what happens to them.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-20 10:41:29 AM

For anyone who wants to research the PC's confiscation bill, here's some old footage:

In 2001, on CTS: http://www.youtube.com/fpontario#p/u/52/9nt8vSEYLfo (this one is part 3 of 3...the rest can be found on www.youtube.com/fpontario

Hansard from my 2001 testimony to the committee concerning the bill (then called Bill 155):

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-02-20 12:23:30 PM

Paul McKeever is _so famous so >there..

1) he made a documentary film about Marc Emery that dozens of people viewed that in the end, will free the Prince of Pot from the jail sentence he talked himself into..

2) he is the leader of the Libertarian party and manages to get at least 2% of the vote whenever him and his friend run for office,,that's way better than nothing and you know it

3) he has never backed away from a bad idea

Thus qualifies as " famous" where I come from palsy- walsy,,

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-20 2:05:22 PM

Maybe the police could plant unlawful drugs on your property, discover it there, charge you with a drug possession crime, take your property and auction it off before you are found guilty of anything.

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkhan | 2010-02-20 3:54:09 PM

This actually happened to me back in 2002. Not on a grand scale, but the sheriffs in our county came, searched my home for hours while I sat with my 3 year old daughter and 3 month old son. They claimed to be looking for my husband (now ex) on a warrant. Stupidly, I gave consent to search, which I shouldn't have done, and after several hours they "found" a controlled substance and started loading up their moving trucks with my end tables, jewelry, cameras, cash, cast iron pans, I mean you name it, they took it. A lawyer we knew advised us not to quibble over things that were not that important or sentimental to us. He was on the take as well, I'm sure. On the list of my jewelry that was confiscated...a pair of diamond studs was not mentioned and was conveniently missing. Oh well. I BROKE THE LAW AND THE LAW WON!!! However in this case, you don't have to go to court and be proven guilty in order to lose. They can just come in, intimidate you, obtain a warrant real quick, seize your possessions, and leave. At least they didn't book me for the narcotics they pulled out of their pocket, but rather left me there to feel violated just as if a burglar had just come in, showed me his gun and his ID, and stole whatever he wanted. I didn't sleep at home that night. I hated even being in there after that.

Posted by: CHRISTY | 2010-02-20 5:02:08 PM

thanks Agha, you're a real pal
for that unsolicited introduction
to your nightmares..

how about I just forgive you
in honor of mental health month?

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-20 5:22:45 PM

Drugs ARE for losers - you'll lose everything you and your family owns.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-20 5:38:29 PM

Use your indoor voice Zeb, we have visitors.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-20 5:58:55 PM

I love how Libertarians never say please

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-20 6:31:57 PM

I've never heard an Ontario say thank you, or any form of gratitude for anything.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-20 6:56:27 PM

This type of seizure law has no place in a supposedly free country. It begs to be abused and probably has been. I have no problem with this as long there are checks and balances in place, but that seems to be missing and the whole system is open to abuse.
It's just too easy to set someone up.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-20 6:58:11 PM

Ontario implemented the Civil Remedies Act, launched by the former Conservative gov't in 2001.

Robin Chatterjee- a man on bail who had $29,000 in cash and some grow-op-style equipment gear confiscated after he was stopped by York Region Police in 2003 while driving without a front licence plate.

While the $$, lights and exhaust fan smelled of marijuana, no drugs were found and Chatterjee was never charged with any narcotics offense.

Still, Police were successful in taking away his property.

Ontario AG Bryant said the USA RICO-like strategy has allowed Police to grab a variety of assets.

@15 Million $$ by the year 2007.

Prohibition. A Cop's Best Friend.

Posted by: jeff franklin | 2010-02-20 9:43:27 PM

non of the teary stories played out are
" innocent " people being attacked by the cops in error, no -they are all drug criminals the police were already after..

and the cry " of wait for a _conviction before taking any proceedes of crime" is dumb- That plan in the past gave bad guys like marc Emery up to _ five years to liquidate all their procedes of crime goodies and run away to some vacation nation and work on their tans

Timing is not supposed to favour the criminal.. Again, none of this is happening to nice citizens, its all falling down on criminals the police were already persuing. Curious that the Police bring asset trucks with themn as they raid certain addresses,

Drug Prohibition: _Everybodys' best friend

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-20 11:20:55 PM

So why isn't the property returned after people have been found not guilty? Or returned after a period of time if no charges are ever laid? Temporarily seizing assets is one thing, like placing someone under arrest, but note the words "forfeiture." You lose merely by being a suspect.

Like most fascists 419, that's not a cheap insult but a precise description based on your comments over the years, your zeal to punish people you dislike overwhelms minor things, like the presumption of innocence.

This is a law that can target the nice as well as the not so nice. It is an impressive piece of naivety to imagine that the police are endowed with not only the ability to determine guilt or innocence infallibly, but also the moral superiority not to abuse that power. You imagine a criminal to be some nasty man living in a nasty part of town, a member of the criminal classes. A criminal is whomever the state deems to be one.

Due process is the citizen's main safeguard against abuse of power. Leviathan looks good when he's beating up other people. I doubt you'd like it if you found yourself penniless because a local sheriff took a shine to your home, with nothing more than a vague suspicion you had violated the law.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-21 6:01:02 AM

The persecution of druggies will continue until the complaints cease.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-21 7:46:24 AM

Due process is the citizen's main safeguard against abuse of power.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-21 6:01:02 AM

This is obviously too complicated to understand for some of the regulars on this site.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-21 9:43:56 AM

Its the Sunday Morning Fascist Show..

see how two hobby hasslers manage to keep 100 Wipehead Apologists in a permanent state of shock and outrage for months on end..

So hows it going getting Marc Emerys' drug profits back from the Feds?

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-21 10:06:38 AM

Just gonna add my 2 cents.... The serious growers know about these laws and rent because of them. This way, they don't waste money on a house that would be taken if busted. When busted in a rented house, all the landlord has to say is "sorry officer, i had no idea they had setup a grow" and he has no worries (in fact there are landlords and that cater to growers). AND the person at the grow is going to be the "fall guy", Some low level that isn't really worth anything... At least it seams the drug war is equally effective in all areas :)

Posted by: Baker | 2010-02-21 10:47:15 AM

Is it too much to ask that people address the topic? The topic is about a most basic freedom, at least in a civilised society, which is the right to due process and considered innocent until proved guilty. It is not about Emery, "druggies" or drugs per se, for it extents to everything governed by law.

When people fail to grasp the concept of freedom, such as in this post, or freedom of speech, unless it affects them personally, then we can expect to lose such freedoms and perhaps deserve to do so.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-02-21 11:03:41 AM

to lose such freedoms and perhaps deserve to do so.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-02-21 11:03:41 AM

At least the majority seem to see the big picture here.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-21 11:20:03 AM

"...Is it too much to ask that people address the topic?..."

yeah, it probably is too much to ask
we the people are enjoying the associations of ideas and freedom of same to do such

Ir is _ so about Emery and druggies and drugs per se,, because this is the arena where all this asset forfeiture is actively taking place,- it is not taking place in the other spheres of criminality..

_and we deserve to lose our toys because you say so? Because we didn;t fight under your command? Wow.. thats braver than smart to state this in public

maybe we could be facebook friends someday :)

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-21 11:21:32 AM

Right on guys, i was just talking about how this law for its original legitimized purpose, is useless as sin. Only works on "small fish" or "mom and pop" setups, the big time people aren't going to loose anything.

Posted by: Baker | 2010-02-21 11:31:05 AM

Mom & Pop grow opps were over in 1975-

its now Mom & Pop Inc- stealing hydro
caught with hundreds of plants in the basement
on rotation harvest =
several pounds ofsalable buds in the freezer
waiting for the wholesale point man
to stop by with a wad of cash.. and still the wonderful marijuana culture people rob them..
Poor old Mom & Pop have to share a single handgun

trying to get by with $ 60,000 -$ 100,000 extra pocket money their little felony hobby brings in just to pay for insoles for their fuzzy slippers

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-21 1:14:15 PM

Think of what the average family could do if they put their money into legitimate activities rather than drugs.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-21 2:27:54 PM

Good insight citizen Zeb,
to which I add AND HURRY!!
drugged up existance will soon a be a two generation ordeal on western culture , as an entire generation of 21st century kids will grow up surrounded by stoned out elders giving the impression being a wipehead is what life is all about- leaving them with a legacy of limitations

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-21 5:23:31 PM

Alain, I agree. Whether or not drugs should be illegal is a different discussion. How morally wrong drugs are is also a different discussion. This one is about the right to due process and considered innocent until proved guilty. Everyone's freedoms are protected when this due process is protected. When it is not, then we are all at risk.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-21 10:27:42 PM

Drugs bad. Prohibition worse. This type of seizure ... pure fascism. No wonder 419 supports it.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-02-22 6:19:44 AM

We prefer to call it "public health and safety."

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-22 10:23:51 AM

Thats right Citizen Zeb

Be sure to look for, stencilled on the business end of every police battering ram used to smash in grow opp doors this message:

"..If you can read this you're in deep trouble.."

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-22 10:55:04 AM

Oh we got trouble here. REAL trouble. Ain't that right, Bubba?

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-22 10:56:41 AM

Stop the spread of mould and mildew in your home without resorting to the use of harmful chemicals.

One more good thing about a Police battering ram:
it provides instant fresh air circulation throughout an entire grow opp

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-22 11:38:10 AM

In Maricopa County, Arizona, homes where drugs are sold are bulldozed. That should be standard policy in Canada. Sell drugs, lose everything. Sounds fair to me.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-22 12:04:01 PM

Citizen Zeb:

if that policy of drug house bulldozing was implemented in British Columbia, that entire province would be returned to pristine wilderness in just a FEW YEARS --

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-22 12:18:37 PM

This could easily be abused. In fact, if I knew where Zeb lived, I could plant some "evidence" on his property and call the cops. I wonder how much he would back such a stupid policy then?

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-02-22 12:33:59 PM

419: what a pity we can't do that to Toronto!

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2010-02-22 12:49:35 PM


We support legitimate busting
the blatantly guilty
and you are suggesting
generating false evidence
to damage the innocent

what a scumbag thing to suggest Steve
but hey,
we are not surprised
or take any offense to what
wipeheads say think or do
they never follow through with anything

Wipeheads' worst nightmare'
Normal peoples' practical dream

Posted by: 419 | 2010-02-22 12:57:38 PM

Missing the point as usual 419. Or perhaps its on purpose? You seem to think everyone is honest and forthright. Hate to break it to you, but not in this world. Lets say I had issues, or just didn't like my neighbor. What better way to "solve" the problem than to get the state to take his property away? He doesn't even get the chance to defend himself. This type of policy is just another step in the march towards fascism. But I guess your ok with that.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-02-22 1:11:50 PM

My point being, its way to easy to abuse. Not only by the government, but by the common person.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-02-22 1:13:12 PM

Ya, I'm the scumbag. LOL Do you even read, or give a seconds thought, to what you write?

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-02-22 1:17:42 PM

Publius, there's more to being an informed member of the Canadian polity than mining Leftist rags for nuggets to grind to powder. When you do that, y're not debating; you're parroting. And your favoured source of late, the Slate, can hardly be considered unbiased. Did you even attempt to find corroborating evidence elsewhere? If so, your post doesn't show it.

Also, cheese the cheap theatrics. Your outraged declaration that "to undermine one right is undermine them all" is a patent absurdity. One could just as easily counter with "to break one law is to break them all," thus allowing us to send two-bit pickpockets to the electric chair.

"Smelley..." Gotta love the irony.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-22 3:11:31 PM

Maybe the police could plant unlawful drugs on your property, discover it there, charge you with a drug possession crime, take your property and auction it off before you are found guilty of anything.

"Maybe" is not an argument, Agha. Your distrust of the police and your apparent belief that they don't feel the need to prove anything to make a case may well derive from your own apparent belief that you don't need to prove anything to make a case. Psychoanalysts call that projection. It's a classic sign that not all is well upstairs.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-22 3:13:35 PM

I've never heard an Ontario say thank you, or any form of gratitude for anything.

You haven't met my wife. :-)

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-22 3:14:33 PM

While the $$, lights and exhaust fan smelled of marijuana, no drugs were found and Chatterjee was never charged with any narcotics offense.

Marijuana isn't a narcotic, Jeff, so he wouldn't be charged with a narcotics offense in any case. And are you saying, in effect, that if a person is discovered with a shotgunned corpse in his truck and blood on his hands, it is reasonable to presume that he is not guilty, simply because no one saw him do it?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-22 3:19:08 PM

Just gonna add my 2 cents.... The serious growers know about these laws and rent because of them...in fact there are landlords and that cater to growers.

But not many, Baker. Crime can never be eradicated, but it can be minimized. The harder you make it for the criminal to operate, the fewer will bother. That's not to hard to understand, is it?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-22 3:22:20 PM

That account sounds pretty suspicious, Christy. I mean, come on. Seizing frying pans for a narcotics offense? That stretches credibility to the breaking point. You didn't have to throw in the bit about your kids, either, because they are irrelevant to the discussion. Playing the sympathy card is a classic ruse of the guilty. I do feel sorry for those kids, but only because of who their parents are.

I've come to distrust most "the police are assholes" stories, simply because they are almost without exception extremely one-sided, if not outright fabrications. Not many people will admit to the Internet, and thus the world, that they actually deserved what happened to them. But they're all too happy to find fault with everyone else, with particular venom reserved for exes and the cops.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-22 3:29:45 PM

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