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Civil Asset Forfeiture

A man from Where Great Britain Used To Be explains to us why this is something we expect to see in other countries:

15 Responses to “Civil Asset Forfeiture”

  1. MrSatyre Says:

    Sad to hear the old trope uttered yet again that police protect us. That’s the exception, not the rule.

  2. wyowanderer Says:

    You know it’s bad when the British make fun of it.

  3. Paul Kisling Says:

    You will lose and I will win.

  4. KM Says:

    The cops work for, and steal for, the self-appointed bosses of this Banana Republic and wonder why nobody wuvs them.

  5. Helo Says:

    It’s not as easy as saying it’s always wrong. Used properly, it is a way of seizing “dirty” money and property through due process of law. At least in my state, the owner is required to have notice of the seizure and receives basic information on how to contest it. In practice, having handled civil asset forfeiture as a prosecutor (and thus being privy to the details of the police investigation), the people who have even a weak claim always assert it (as do plenty of people caught red-handed).

    Look, the system is pretty simple:
    1. Cop seizes item he thinks is dirty and prosecutor filed papers with the court. Owner received notice and basic instructions.
    2. Owner must file an Answer that basically says “the item isn’t dirty.”
    3. Prosecutor sends Interrogatories to the owner, which must be either answered truthfully or objected to (usually for being irrelevant).
    4. Owner sends his own interrogatories to the prosecutor.
    5. Discussion occurs between the prosecutor and the owner about the case.
    6. If the discussions can’t resolve things, the case goes to trial and the prosecutor must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the item is dirty.

    Many people do not bother with #2, and so are found in default by the court. The prosecutor then had the item awarded to the state.

    I can also say that we give things back on a regular basis where there is some reasonable claim the item isn’t dirty. If it is, in fact, clean, it’s not that hard to find someone willing to say so under oath, either in court or by affidavit.

    If the police took $20k of clean cash from me, I’d be calling the court and prosecutor every day, googling how to fight an AF case, and so on. I wouldn’t just sadly talk to the press about how a huge amount of money got taken and I did nothing about it.

  6. Helo Says:

    Ack, autocorrect messed up a few verb tenses above. Oops.

  7. KM Says:

    Used properly, it is a way of seizing “dirty” money and property through due process of law

    That’s the bill of goods that sold this theft idea to John Q. “Oh, their seizing Al Capone’s money..OK then.”

    When the cops are putting AF money *projections* into their budgets then yes, I think it’s safe to say it’s wrong. They are predicting how much stuff they will take in the next year in the War On Whatever They Want.

    If I get something taken and I have to talk to a prosecutor to prove it’s innocence, then I should hire an attorney right? Why the hell do I need to hire an attorney if I am not charged with a crime?
    And if I don’t have enough money to hire an attorney for a protracted court battle? Guess I’m just fucked because I already helped pay for the prosecutor who is waiting for me to ‘send my own interrogatories’ to their office.
    What should I ask? Something along the lines of “Am I bent over far enough?”

  8. Geodkyt Says:

    Yup. IIRC, only two industrialized “free” nations use civil forfeiture — the US and New Zealand.

    Everyone else limits forfeitures to outright contraband that *cannot* be legally possessed under teh circumstances, or after a criminal conviction.

  9. Helo Says:


    It’s really not as hard as you think to contest a forfeiture. Firstly, this isn’t Bleak House: it just doesn’t get all that protracted, especially if you’re not talking about white collar stuff. Secondly, you may need an attorney because this is a civil lawsuit. If we were arguing over whether the piece of property I built a house on was really mine or if someone just sold me a fake deed to your actual property, you might hire a lawyer even though neither of us is accused of a crime.

    Hiring a lawyer for AF may help, but it’s really not crucial. As I outlined above, the process isn’t all that complicated. The burden is on the prosecutor (so long as you do the absolute minimum in terms of responding to the filed paperwork, and “absolute minimum” can mean “this stuff isn’t dirty, signed, Owner” scrawled on note paper and mailed to the court).

    Frankly, contesting asset forfeiture is something that a lot of remarkably stupid people have figured out how to do, at least procedurally (if the police found you in your own car with kilos of cocaine, baggies, scales, cash, and a ledger, the judge is probably going to agree that the car is dirty, once all the procedures have been followed).

    As for projections, I’d need more information. We project that we’ll receive a portion of the property already ordered forfeited (or that we strongly believe a court will agree should be forfeited) by the judge, but that has to how through the bureaucracy and it can take a while for that money to make its way to us. We don’t just walk over to the evidence locker and put a bunch of $100 bills in a duffel bag once a court order is entered. Alternatively, a large metropolitan office might see that at least X amount has been seized for each of the past five years and assume they’ll have the same thing happen this year.

    There are certainly abuses and potential for abuses, but let’s have some perspective.

  10. JTC Says:

    And when all the cop shops have their margarita machine, then what? Oh I know, let’s get us some choppers and some tanks and some MRAPs and go play trick-or-treat in the hood, then we can get some more choppers and tanks and MRAPs!

    And we wonder about the militarization of Mayberry…shit Andy gets tired of that old black-and-white!

  11. KM Says:

    if the police found you in your own car with kilos of cocaine, baggies, scales, cash, and a ledger

    But what if I have just cash in the car? Is it still OK to do the rip off with NO criminal charge?
    After all, cash!
    The deceased golf pro Mo Norman used to walk around with literally THOUSANDS of dollars in his pockets because he was, A – distrustful of banks and B – a kook.
    Should he have been rousted and had his cash taken?

    Here’s some perspective…how about we accuse someone of a crime, wait for the person accused to be convicted and THEN take their shit?
    You may find it “easy” to fight forfeiture. I’m saying this shit show shouldn’t even be on the table. When you’re carrying a wad of cash and have committed no crime, the person you shouldn’t have to worry about taking it is somebody with a badge.

  12. Matthew Carberry Says:

    Hell, how about cop has probable cause to suspect a crime has occurred and arrests on that PC. No arrest, no seizure at all.

    If the property has some potential relevance to an actual crime reasonably arrested for, it can then be held as such. Note that mere possession of a lawful asset shouldn’t constitute PC in itself. Carrying cash is not a crime nor evidence of a crime absent, you know, real evidence of the particular crime claimed.

    *After* an indictment is secured, then and only then should the prosecutor even be allowed to *consider* going for forfeiture.

  13. Jake Says:

    It’s not as easy as saying it’s always wrong. Used properly, it is a way of seizing “dirty” money and property through due process of law.


    If the government can’t or won’t get a conviction of a crime, then they have no business forcibly taking a person’s property.

    As KM says, it doesn’t matter how “easy” it is to fight forfeiture, it shouldn’t even be an option without a criminal conviction.

  14. Will Says:

    IIRC, the average seizure is under $5000, cash. This is done during traffic stops for suspected “drug runners”. Most people don’t bother trying to fight it, due to the cost of hiring a lawyer may exceed the cash lost. The f’ing cops know this, which is why they do it. This is nothing but LEGAL THEFT!

    The stated reason for this bullshit is that law abiding people don’t carry real amounts of money around with them. That they must have some sort of nefarious actions connected to the money. Sounds like institutional paranoia to me. They act just like any other gang these days.

  15. Leatherwing Says:

    Many of the seizures target immigrants (one town in TX had it down to a science) and others that don’t use or trust banks. Family driving to Dallas area to buy car at auction using cash. Cops confiscate cash. For the same reasons that they don’t use or trust banks, they don’t trust their chances in the legal system so they walk away.

    It’s a racket and has no place in a civilized country. But what was I thinking?

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