Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Asset Forfeiture Or Highway Robbery? Utah Highway Patrol Confiscates $200,000 Cash From Motorist During Traffic Stop, Then Lets Him Go

On February 16th, 2009, KSL Channel 5 and the Deseret News report that the Utah Highway Patrol confiscated nearly $200,000 in cash from a man they pulled over on Interstate 80. But although troopers think it is drug money, they can't prove it, so they let the man go.

It all started on I-80 near 8800 West outside of Salt Lake City. A trooper stopped a South Dakota car for an cracked windshield and improper lane change. After he talked to the 30-year-old male driver and 24-year-old female passenger, the trooper became suspicious of their story and their demeanor, and decided to investigate further, bringing out the canine that was with him. After the dog started scratching and barking around the trunk, creating a probable cause situation, Neff opened it and found about $200,000 in small and large bills neatly folded and bound into about 45 bundles, bagged and then stuffed into a backpack. "No narcotics inside the vehicle. What the dog actually alerted to was the presence of the odor of narcotics that was on the cash itself," UHP Trooper Chamberlin Neff explained. [Ed. Note: Because of the prevalence of the drug trade, as much as 90 percent of all cash in circulation in the United States has "drug residue" on it.]

The driver said the cash was to be donated to a Catholic church in Sacramento, but refused to discuss any further details, including where he got the money. After running a check on the driver and discovering his criminal history, the trooper decided that the driver was taking the money to California to purchase a large quantity of narcotics, so the trooper seized the cash in accordance with Utah Traffic Code Section 41-6a-211. It's not permanently forfeited...yet. But the driver will have to prove his story in court if he wants to get it back. Utah Code Title 24, Chapter 1, Utah Uniform Forfeiture Procedures Act describes the laws governing forfeiture in Utah.

"If it's a legit reason, he was really going to give it to the Catholic church, then he gets his money back. It's just very simple," Neff said. [Ed. Note: Simple for the UHP, yes, but not for the motorist who has to go to the trouble of returning to Utah to beg for his property back.]

Troopers say this kind of thing happens more often than you might think. Utah highways are frequently used for drug trafficking. Despite this, the overwhelmingly majority of the 120 public comments appended to the KSL story are in support of the motorist. Most people are outraged that a person's money could be arbitrarily seized in such a fashion, because it egregiously violates both the Fourth Amendment and the traditional presumption of innocence. It implicitly criminalizes the mere possession of cash.

This can lead to even more serious abuses. The Houston Chronicle is currently reporting on forfeiture literally run amok in Tenaha, Texas. Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half. Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town. Some affidavits filed by officers relied on the presence of seemingly innocuous property as the only evidence that a crime had occurred.

In one particularly egregious incident, Linda Dorman, a great-grandmother from Akron, Ohio, had $4,000 in cash taken from her by local authorities when she was stopped while driving through Tenaha after visiting Houston in April 2007. Court records make no mention that anything illegal was found in her van and show no criminal charges filed in the case. She is still waiting for the return of what she calls “her life savings.”

Learn more about the truth behind forfeiture at Fear.org. Forfeiture, as currently executed, is government theft. Trooper Neff is probably 99 percent right; the driver was probably going to use the money to buy drugs. But he has no way of proving it, and to protect our private property rights, should have no right to just confiscate the money. Occasionally, a guilty person must wriggle through in order to better preserve the rights of the many. The only truly constitutional application of asset forefeiture is as a result of a trial, when forfeiture is specifically prescribed by a judge.

1 comment:

Dan Scott said...

By, Dan Scott

How Dependent Are Police On “Asset Forfeiture” To Pay Police Salaries?

Americans should be alert to a problematic increase in “police property seizures” as the economy worsens: Police departments having a budget crisis, faced with having to layoff police officers, may increasingly look to civil asset forfeiture of Citizens’ property to pay their salaries and operating costs.

Police corruption abounds some U.S. Cities: Citizens are illegally shot, falsely arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Every American is at risk of being falsely imprisoned despite the conviction standard “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.” Frequently reported, Police falsify evidence and or purchase testimony from paid informants to convict Citizens. Imagine how easy it would be for corrupt police to forge evidence to cause “civil asset forfeiture” of a person’s property like their home. Civil Asset Forfeiture requires a lower standard of evidence than criminal evidence, “only a Preponderance of Civil Evidence” to seize property. No one need be charged with a crime: government can use as civil evidence to forfeit someone’s real property, the fact the owner reported to police that their tenant was dealing drugs to show the owner—had prior knowledge of the activity.

After “The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act 2000” passed: the “old statute of limitations” died that gave government “five years” to seize property from the actual date a “property” was involved in crime. Police now have five-years to seize property from “whenever police claim” they learned a “property” was made subject to civil asset forfeiture. Local police often work with federal police agencies to “federally forfeit property” to avoid state laws that require a criminal conviction first before a person’s property can be forfeited—then split the seized proceeds, other forfeited assets. There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture. For example a misrepresentation on a federally insured mortgage loan application can make your home—forever subject to federal civil asset forfeiture.

Most property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial to the government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do it” can “involuntarily waive” your right to assert in your defense—the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” has passed for prosecution. Any fresh denial of guild, even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during a “Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding” to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. Re: Waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: See James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579; USC18, Sec.1001

Corrupt Police framing property is seldom reported, probably because victims of civil asset forfeiture trade off not going to jail for giving up their confiscated property to Police. Congress to help protect Americans from government forfeiture abuse, should pass legislation that raises the standard of evidence Government uses for Civil Asset Forfeiture from a mere “Preponderance of Evidence” to “Clear and Convincing Evidence.”

Of great concern, what might happen to “Fair Justice” in countries where police and government become dependent on forfeiting property from others to pay their salaries and budgets?

Several powerful Asset Forfeiture Companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange know they might be crushed if "nationally" the standard of evidence for “Civil Asset Forfeiture" was raised from a mere “preponderance of Evidence” to "Clear and Convincing Evidence" before assets could be confiscated from American Citizens.

In the U.S., private security corporations and their operatives work so closely with law enforcement to forfeit property—providing intelligence information and other services, they appear to have merged with police.

To locate U.S. Corporations involved in Civil Asset Forfeitures, enter into Internet search engines “Corporations in Asset forfeiture” or “Corporations with Asset Forfeiture Government Contracts.” Usually, found websites will mention or list U.S. Corporations involved in forfeiting assets and related services.

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