Search Results for ‘maryland forfeit’

Maryland Gov. Hogan signs forfeiture reform

Gov. Larry Hogan yesterday signed an important package of reforms to forfeiture law in Maryland. Applause to all who helped make this happen, including Sen. Michael Hough, Rob Peccola and Lee McGrath of the Institute for Justice, and Gov. Hogan.

P.S. Some coverage of a January press event in which I participated at the Capitol, calling attention to the case for asset forfeiture reform in Maryland: Frederick News-Post, Maryland ReporterWBAL.  [cross-posted from Free State Notes]

Public opinion and forfeiture reform

At a meeting yesterday with President Donald Trump, sheriffs complained “that they were under pressure to ease the practice” of civil asset forfeiture, that is, seizing cars, houses, and bank accounts whether or not the owners had been convicted of any crime. Per Reuters, Trump “voiced disagreement with lawmakers who want to change asset forfeiture laws” and “said members of the U.S. Congress would ‘get beat up really badly by the voters’ if they interfered with law enforcement’s activities.”

One reason reform of civil asset forfeiture has made rapid progress lately in legislatures around the country, including my own state of Maryland, is that the public strongly disapproves of the current state of the law when it is explained. In December Cato released a polling study on criminal justice issues, led by my colleague Emily Ekins. Among its findings: “Fully 84% of Americans oppose the practice of police taking ‘a person’s money or property that is suspected to have been involved in a drug crime before the person is convicted of a crime.’ Only 16% approve.” The strong majority extends across all groups of respondents, including Republicans (76%) and those with a highly favorable attitude toward police (78%). Asked what should happen with the proceeds of seizures upon conviction, only 24% of the public favored letting local police departments keep the seized goods or cash, while 76% said it should go instead to state-level coffers. which would reduce the incentive for zealous seizure.

The same opinion survey found that 64% of the American public held a favorable view of their local police, a consensus extending across both parties and all major ideological groups. So if the survey is accurate, the American public supports police while opposing civil asset forfeiture. More: statement from Matt Miller, managing attorney of the Texas office of the Institute for Justice.

Forfeiture roundup

  • “Justice Department suspends abusive asset forfeiture program – for now” [Ilya Somin]
  • Tulsa sheriff steers seizures to judge it once employed, invokes unclaimed property law which dodges burden of proof [The Frontier]
  • Op-ed claims that if Maryland cops grab your stuff you must be a “drug dealer,” trial or no [Joseph Cassilly, Baltimore Sun]
  • Quest for revenue-self-sufficient law enforcement can end in “independent, self-funding armed gangs” [Noah Smith, Bloomberg View]
  • “Get rid of policing for profit in Michigan” [Angela Erickson, Detroit News]
  • Congress has twice tried to make it easier for prevailing claimants to recover attorneys’ fees when recovering seized property, but the government finds ways to slip around [Scott Greenfield]
  • Value of assets seized by law enforcement in U.S. in 2014 exceeds value taken by burglars [Armstrong Economics]

Forfeiture roundup

  • How does your state rank on asset forfeiture laws? [Michael Greibok, FreedomWorks via Scott Shackford] Maryland delegate alleges that vetoed bill “would have made it easier for criminals to get their forfeited property back,” seemingly unaware that it focused on rights of owners *not* found guilty of anything [Haven Shoemaker, Carroll County Times] Arizona counties said to have nearly free rein in spending money [Arizona Republic via Coyote]
  • I took part last week in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on civil asset forfeiture, sponsored by Right on Crime, and it went very well I thought [Sarah Gompper, FreedomWorks]
  • “Nail Salon Owner Sues For Return Of Life Savings Seized By DEA Agents At Airport” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt] And: “A federal judge has just ordered the government to return $167,000 it took from a man passing through Nevada on his way to visit his girlfriend in California.” [Cushing]
  • “How Philadelphia seizes millions in ‘pocket change’ from some of the city’s poorest residents” [Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post “Wonkblog”]
  • IRS drops structuring forfeiture case against N.C. convenience store owner Lyndon McLellan, will return more than $107,000 it seized [Institute for Justice]
  • Canada, too, has civil forfeiture when there has been no criminal conviction [British Columbia Civil Liberties Association]
  • Michigan testimony: “After they breached the door at gunpoint with masks, they proceeded to take every belonging in my house” [Jacob Sullum]
  • Town of Richland, Mississippi, population 7,000, builds $4.1 million police headquarters with forfeiture money. Thanks, passing motorists! [Steve Wilson, Mississippi Watchdog via Radley Balko]

New Mexico abolishes civil asset forfeiture

Significant news: New Mexico “Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has signed [into law] HB 560 … effectively abolish[ing] civil asset forfeiture by requiring a criminal conviction before the government can seize property.” [Adam Bates/Cato; Scott Shackford, Reason and more]

Late this afternoon (Monday) I’ll be speaking to an invitation-only group in Annapolis on what state lawmakers should know about the gathering momentum for civil forfeiture reform. If you’re in or near Maryland’s capital city and interested in learning more, contact me.

Maryland roundup

  • Civil libertarians won victories last term in restraining open-ended use of police surveillance, search and seizure: access to emails and social media postings older than six months will now require warrant, as will location tracking; new restrictions also placed on use of automatic license plate reading system data [ACLU 2014 policy report]
  • Bill that would have banned weapons on private school grounds, whether or not the school itself had objection, failed to make it out of committee [SB 353, earlier here, here]
  • Judge overturns state union’s takeover of Wicomico County teacher’s association [Mike Antonucci, more]
  • Vague definitions of “trafficking” + asset forfeiture: what could go wrong with Del. Kathleen Dumais’s plan? [Reason, WYPR “Maryland Morning”, more (legislative agenda of “trafficking task force”)]
  • In his spare time, Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry Ronald DeJuliis apparently likes to engage in urban beautification of the sign removal variety [Baltimore Sun, Quinton Report, Daily Record (governor’s office considers criminal charges against appointee “personal” and relating to “after hours”)]
  • Behind the controversy over Rockville firearms dealer’s plan to offer “smart gun” [David Kopel]
  • Baltimore tightens curfew laws, ’cause criminalizing kids’ being outside is for their own good [Jesse Walker, followup]
  • In Montgomery County, police-union demands for “effects bargaining” were a bridge too far even for many deep-dyed liberals, but union hasn’t given up yet [Seventh State]

Maryland roundup

Maryland roundup

Did Maryland farmer pay a price for criticizing federal prosecutors?

Readers will remember from this series of posts in April and May how the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland brought and then settled charges against Randy and Karen Sowers of Middletown, Md., over “structuring” of bank deposits, that is, the conscious holding of transactions under $10,000 to avoid triggering paperwork and federal scrutiny. Now Van Jones of the Baltimore City Paper, who has led the coverage of the story, has some unsettling new allegations:

Randy Sowers is not the only Maryland farmer recently targeted by federal money-laundering investigators for illegally depositing cash his business earns in increments of $10,000 or less, in order to avoid triggering bank-reporting requirements. But Sowers, whose South Mountain Creamery (SMC) dairy farm in Middletown, near Frederick, is a popular fixture at Baltimore-area farmers markets, is the only one to exercise his First Amendment rights and talk to the press about it.

For that, Sowers’ lawyers say, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO-MD) has made him pay—an assertion that U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein denies, despite an e-mail sent to Sowers’ attorney by the chief of Rosenstein’s asset forfeiture and money laundering section, Stefan Cassella, that appears to state exactly that.

David Watt and Paul Kamenar, attorneys for Sowers, say during negotiations over a deal to settle the charges, Watt asked Cassella why the government was insisting on particular concessionary language it had not obtained in the settlement of similar charges against a farmer named Taylor on the Eastern Shore. Cassella sent back a one-line email that read: “Mr. Taylor did not give an interview to the press.” In an e-mail to U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, Cassella has stated that the Sowers settlement was “not a punishment for exercising his First Amendment rights.”