forfeiture

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California: One In 10 People Say Police Took Cash, Property Without A Conviction

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Two new surveys find overwhelming public opposition in California to laws allowing law enforcement to seize and keep a person’s cash and property without a conviction

California Legislature considers reform to rein in abuse

In a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a startling 10 percent of adults living in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties said that they had had their property taken by a police officer without being convicted of a crime. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of those living in these three counties also stated that they know someone who had experienced the same.

One of the ways in which law enforcement can legally take property or money from people in the absence of a conviction is through civil asset forfeiture, a highly controversial policy that allows law enforcement officers to seize cash or property that they suspect has been involved in criminal activity, such as drug sales.

While California law offers greater protections, federal forfeiture laws do not require that police arrest or charge a person with a crime, or convict them. If the owner does not file a claim in civil court and prevail in the case, the property is permanently lost, and the majority of the funds go to the same law enforcement agency that seized the cash or property in the first place.

U.S.: New Bill Would Cut Off Federal Forfeiture Funds For DEA Marijuana Raids

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new bill with bipartisan support would eliminate one controversial source of funding for a federal marijuana seizure program.

The "Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act," introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from using federal forfeiture funds to pay for its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, reports Nick Sibilla at Forbes. The bill would additionally ban transferring property to federal, state or local agencies if that property "is used for any purpose pertaining to" the DEA's marijuana eradication program.

The DEA gets millions of dollars annually under this program; the take was $18 million in 2013. It then funnels the cash to more than 120 state and local agencies to "eliminate marijuana grow sites" nationwide.

Last year, the program was responsible for more than 6,300 arrests, eradicating more than 4.3 million marijuana plants, and seizing $27.3 million in assets. More than half of all those plants were destroyed in California, which also accounted for more than a third of the seized assets and nearly 40 percent of the arrests.

Arizona: ACLU Challenges Asset Forfeiture Laws

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Under Unconstitutional System, Sheriff and County Attorney Take People’s Property and Use Profits for Salaries, Overtime, Retirement Funds, More

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the law firm Perkins Coie on Wednesday filed suit against the sheriff and county attorney of Pinal County, Arizona, for their enforcement of the state's civil asset forfeiture laws.

Law enforcement used this scheme against Rhonda Cox, a county resident, to seize and keep her truck, violating her constitutional rights. After Cox, an innocent owner, filed a claim to get her truck back, the county attorney’s office informed her that if she pursued her claim and lost, not only would she lose her truck, but the state’s forfeiture laws would require her to pay the county’s attorneys’ fees and investigation costs, an amount that would exceed the value of her truck.

Since she couldn’t risk so much financial loss, Cox was forced to abandon her efforts to retrieve her truck.

“Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture laws gave Pinal County license to steal from Rhonda Cox,” said Emma Andersson, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “That would be bad enough, but those laws also made it impossible for her to have a fair shot at challenging that theft in court.

"The county robbed Rhonda twice: first they took her truck, then they took her day in court,” Andersson said.

California: Bill To Rein In Forfeiture Abuses Sails Through Senate On 38-1 Vote

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Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Nationwide Gains Momentum with Sacramento Vote

Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), on Wednesday won nearly unanimous approval in the California State Senate with a 38-1 vote.

Co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and the Institute for Justice, SB 443 will require law enforcement agencies in the State of California to adhere to state laws regarding civil asset forfeiture, rather than transferring cases to federal prosecutors and courts where property rights and evidentiary standards are much lower.

SB 443 also calls for appointing counsel for indigent property owners and allows the recovery of attorney’s fees for successful challenges. Additionally, the bill will protect guiltless spouses and family members from loss of property, and result in increased investment in the General Fund, in courts, and in public defense for the indigent, as well as funding for law enforcement and prosecutors.

“Asset forfeiture inflicts the harsh punishments associated with criminal proceedings without the constitutional protections guaranteed by a trial," said Lynne Lyman, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "In practice, this means encouraging law enforcement to engage in questionable and unethical practices under the banner of the war on drugs.

"Today’s vote is a tremendous step in the right direction,” Lyman said.

U.S.: Attorney General Eric Holder Ends Incentive For Law Enforcement To Seize Property

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Property Seizures by Local and State Police Often Conducted Under Pretext that Property Is Connected to Illegal Drugs

Advocates Applaud Holder for New Policy, Urge Congress to Make Reforms Permanent

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday issued an order establishing a new policy prohibiting federal agencies from accepting civil asset forfeiture assets seized by state and local law enforcement agencies unless the owner is convicted of a crime. The U.S. Treasury Department, which has its own forfeiture program, is issuing a similar policy.

The new policy will greatly restrict the ability of state and local police forces to use fedeal law to seize goods without charging an individual with a crime. Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which authorities seize property alleged to have been involved in a crime, charge the property directly, since goods do not have the same constitutional protections as their owners, and then keep most of the proceeds for departmental use.

The Department of Justice becomes involved after a state or local law enforcement agency seizes property pursuant to state law and requests that a federal agency take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law.

Minnesota: State Rep Says Cops Are Hooked On Drug War Dollars

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Minnesota state Rep. Carly Melin, who is pushing to legalize medical marijuana, said that negotiating with the state's law enforcement leaders has been "like negotiating with a brick wall," and she believes police agencies are hooked on Drug War dollars.

"All along I have said that I am willing to amend the bill," Rep. Melin (DFL-Hibbing) said, reports Mike Mosedale at Politics In Minnesota. "But they won't move at all."

Rep. Melin told of a particularly frustrating meeting last November with representatives of the powerful Minnesota Law Enforcement Coalition. "They wouldn't discuss any specific provisions, and said they had a blanket opposition to medical marijuana," Hibbing said.

Melin took particular note of one objection voice at the meeting, but not mentioned in the Law Enforcement Coalition's 10-page white paper: worry over the impact medical marijuana legalization might have on police budgets.

Dennis Flaherty, the executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (a group included in the Law Enforcement Coalition), told her that he was worried that medical marijuana legalization could lead to reductions in the federal grants that are a big source of money for many police departments, Melin said.

"I don't think it's part of the debate because they wouldn't publicly admit that it's even an issue," Melin said. "Nobody wants to question the motives or honesty of law enforcement."

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