The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has purchased several 'Electronic Recovery and Access to Data' devices to install in police cruisers for seizing funds from prepaid debit cards during roadside arrests. Read the rest
Crooked cops and prosecutors in Nebraska are gnashing their teeth today. The state has taken away their license to steal cash and property from innocent people and use the proceeds to fatten their bloated budgets.
In some states where civil forfeiture is still allowed, high ranking police officers drive in luxury sports cars taken from owners who were never arrested for a crime. Read the rest
Chicago's Police Department are notorious: the force maintains a "black site" where prisoners are secretly held under fake names and tortured, uses political shenanigans to suppress information about corruption, sabotages their own dashcams, secretly operates illegal mass-surveillance equipment (bought with asset forfeiture money, natch), forces out internal investigators who do their jobs conscientiously, and don't get me started on the evils of the Illinois prison system! Read the rest
In America, your belongings can be confiscated by the police without warrant or evidence as proceeds of a crime, and then the government sues your possessions (not you), in lawsuits like "Township of East Bumblefuck vs $50,000 in $100 bills." Read the rest
US police seized $4.5 billion through civil asset forfeiture (through which police can take money and valuables away from citizens without charging anyone with any crimes) in 2014; in the same period, the FBI estimates that burglars accounted for $3.9B in property losses. Read the rest
Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which "bars any state law enforcement agency or other investigative entity from compelling a business to turn over any metadata or digital communications—including emails, texts, documents stored in the cloud—without a warrant. It also requires a warrant to track the location of electronic devices like mobile phones, or to search them." Read the rest
The military surveillance devices known as "Dirtboxes" have been in secret operation for more than a decade, tracking citizens' locations and intercepting their calls, breaking the encryption on hundreds of calls at once. Read the rest
In July 2014 the St. Clair County Drug Task Force raided medical marijuana patient Ginnifer Hency's home and "took everything," including a car, TV sets, a ladder, her children's cellphones and iPads, and even her vibrator. The charges were dropped against Hency (who uses weed to relieve pain from multiple sclerosis) because she was complying with Michigan's medical marijuana laws, but county prosecutors decided to keep her family's property because they claimed civil forfeiture laws allowed them to. Hency said a prosecutor told her, "I can still beat you in civil court. I can still take your stuff."
But a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling on medical marijuana means Hency's case is "no longer viable," said St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling, and they will return Hency's property.
From Detroit Free Press:
The Supreme Court ruling last week clarified when caregivers and users can use their medical marijuana certification as a defense or immunity if charged with a marijuana-related crime. It was the court’s ninth medical marijuana ruling since voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Marihuana Act in 2008.
“We would have to have specific evidence on those items in order to overcome that burden now that we did not have to show before,” Wendling said.
Hency’s lawyer, Michael Komorn, told the Free Press the decision “does not eliminate the horror of what they’ve had to deal with the last year."
Lex is a drug-sniffing police dog. His owner trained Lex by giving him a treat every time he alerted, whether or not Lex was right. Is that a good way to train drug-sniffing dogs? Maybe not for innocent people who get stripped searched when they are falsely identified as drug carriers, but it's great for police departments that use the dogs to enrich themselves with civil asset forfeitures.
Radley Balko of the Washington Post writes about how Federal Courts are making matters ever worse.
Read the rest
The problem here is that invasive searches based on no more than a government official’s hunch is precisely what the Fourth Amendment is supposed to guard against. Unfortunately, the way the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this issue not only doesn’t account for the problem, but also has given police agencies a strong incentive to ensure that drug dogs aren’t trained to act independently of their handler’s suspicions. A dog prone to false alerts means more searches, which means more opportunities to find and seize cash and other lucre under asset forfeiture policies. In fact, a drug dog’s alert in and of itself is often cited as evidence of drug activity, even if no drugs are found, thus enabling police to seize cash, cars and other property from motorists. For example, I’ve interviewed dog trainers who have told me that drug dogs can be trained to alert only when there are measurable quantities of a drug — to ignore so-called “trace” or “remnant” alerts that aren’t cause for arrest.
Authorities in Oklahoma are fighting new legislation designed to address abuses of civil asset forfeiture. And for good reason – the authorities enjoy the money and property they steal from innocent people and are angry that someone is threatening to yank their snouts out of the trough. Read the rest
"Yesterday, two landmark reforms took effect in Montana and New Mexico," says Nick Sibilla. "Both states now require a criminal conviction for civil forfeiture, while New Mexico went even further and banned the practice outright." Read the rest
Civil asset forfeiture is way for police to confiscate people's property and share the bounty with prosecutors' offices, without the tiresome hassle of due process. Read the rest
After at least four years of lying about its rubberstamp takedown process for prison authorities and omitting prison takedowns from its transparency reports, Facebook is finally bringing a crumb of due process to its treatment of prisoners. Read the rest