Most people will never see the effects of civil asset forfeiture, but this has destroyed laws and not all affected people were involved in crimes. Several states have moved to ban seizing mostly money from people who have not even been charged with crimes, but this is being thwarted by police with a program reinstated by President Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This does not mean that this issue is being fought along political ideology lines, as one of the outspoken judges against the practice is Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas. This issue is a fight that has more years ahead.
program reinstated by President Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This does not mean that this issue is being fought along political ideology lines, as one of the outspoken judges against the practice is Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas. This issue is a fight that has more years ahead.
The most current Supreme Court ruling on the issue is the 2019 ruling on Timbs v. Indiana. Tyson Timbs was convicted of a crime, but the state of Indiana sold a private vehicle worth more than the fines. The vehicle was also proven to not have come from any criminal enterprise. The case did not address the innocent people that have been affected by the practice. Something that can also be seen as bad is that states can raise the amount of fines so they are not seizing property worth more than what the state courts fine people.
People driving down the road with cash who are pulled over can have the money taken from them, even in the states that have banned it. This is because of the reinstating of a program by the Department of Justice that shares the money with them. While the program is made to go after real criminal enterprises, many times this has been used by local law enforcement to take cash from people driving through their jurisdictions. The program had been stopped under President Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder as a way to prevent what was termed as adoption.
Jerry Johnson is the owner of a Charlotte, North Carolina trucking company. He was wanting to expand his company by buying a Peterbilt at auction in Arizona. He followed the law and told the TSA that he was carrying almost forty thousand in cash with him on the airplane flight. When he landed, he was taken to a room and interrogated for at least an hour. He was not charged with anything, but the government was able to take his money by claiming it was part of a crime. He had to sue to get it back.
Christian band tour manager Eh Wah was pulled over for a broken tail light while he was traveling for the band. They were raising money for a school in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand and he had the money with him. They seized the money after interrogating him. He was later arrested for supposedly having proceeds from drug activity to cover for the seizure. The district attorney filed to find out if they had a burden of proof, which they found out they did not. The charity took months to get their money back from the Oklahoma department.
One organization has found that law enforcement has seized around $69 billion over two decades. The seizures are usually not contested, as the costs to get it back have proven to be more than what was taken. The police departments are able to use the money to help their budgets and pay for items that are not covered by normal means. Georgia had government employees using the money for travel and luxuries from the money. Officers in a Texas county were able to get thousands in bonuses. This shows that people and charities can lose so corruption gains.
Law enforcement agencies around the nation are fighting reforms on the state level. They get less by using the federal program that is available to them. There are many reasons that the fight to make sure innocent people are not affected by overzealous law enforcement on all levels. This has affected businesses and private individuals in a way that they are unable to recover from. Most have to seek pro bono legal help if they are to recover their property without going into heavy debt. Most states still allow this, but as of the writing of this article, sixteen states have made changes.
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