Posts Tagged ‘forfeiture’

Timbs v. Indiana: state forfeiture can violate Excessive Fines Clause

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Timbs v. Indiana confirms that state governments, like their federal counterpart, may not impose excessive fines. The ruling also holds that “at least some state civil asset forfeitures” violate the Excessive Fines Clause. “As a result, the ruling could help curb abusive asset forfeitures, which enable law enforcement agencies to seize property that they suspect might have been used in a crime – including in many cases where the owner has never been convicted of anything, or even charged. Abusive forfeitures are a a widespread problem that often victimizes innocent people and particularly harms the poor.” [Ilya Somin; ABA Journal]

Now keep your eye on the Privileges and Immunities Clause, advises Ilya Shapiro; Justice Gorsuch used a concurrence to signal that he is interested in revitalizing it, a position already held by Justice Clarence Thomas [Cato; see also Josh Blackman on Twitter]

Asset forfeiture: Philly, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi

Investigation of asset forfeiture outrages in Philadelphia, where the D.A. “pursued nearly door-to-door confiscation of real estate” on some blocks [Ryan Briggs, Plan Philly] Texas police made more than $50 million in 2017 from seizing people’s property, but not everyone was guilty of a crime [Texas Tribune] How police departments in South Carolina make millions by seizing property [Anna Lee, Nathaniel Cary and Mike Ellis, Greenville News] “Civil Asset Forfeiture: An Overview & Conversation”, short video featuring Stefan Cassella and Darpana Sheth [Federalist Society] And this is how the Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, defends forfeiture [@PhilBryantMS on Twitter]

Philadelphia might finally clean up its forfeiture act

“If a judge accepts the agreement, Philadelphia’s process of seizing many millions of dollars in property from innocent owners will be dismantled. Darpana Sheth of the Institute for Justice explains why” in this Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown. More: Tom McDonald, WHYY; C.J. Ciaramella, Reason; Tim Cushing, Techdirt, and earlier from our long-running coverage of Philadelphia’s remarkable and outrageous forfeiture practices.

Police roundup

Chicago impound confound

“It can’t be overstated what a procedural and logistical nightmare it is to get a car impounded in the city of Chicago.” [C.J. Ciaramella, Reason] Related, Atlanta area: “Lawsuit claims Doraville officials writing tickets for profit, not enforcement” [WXIA, Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News] And Pagedale, Mo., a small St. Louis suburb, has agreed “to stop bankrolling itself by fining its residents into the poorhouse.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]

Timbs v. Indiana: does Excessive Fines clause apply to the states?

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the question of whether the Bill of Rights’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to the states [Eugene Volokh] Because the case involves a state’s claim to a seized vehicle, it might also permit the Court to address issues of the constitutionality of asset forfeiture [Ilya Somin, Nick Sibilla, IJ petition for cert in Timbs v. Indiana]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • “Lawmakers must act now to close New York’s double jeopardy loophole,” claims New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. Its what? [Kenneth Lovett/New York Daily News, Jacob Sullum/Reason, Jed Shugerman/Slate (defending closing of “loophole”), Jonathan Blanks on Twitter, earlier]
  • Speaking of pardon powers, Debra Saunders quotes me in column on Presidential pardons, Martha Stewart, Rod Blagojevich, Marc Rich, etc. [Las Vegas Review Journal/syndicated]
  • “California Town Hired Private Law Firm to Sue Citizens, Then Tried to Conceal Massive Costs” [Scott Shackford, earlier on Indio, Coachella, etc.] Bill passed by California assembly “would put an end to a practice in which several cities have been contracting with private prosecutors to handle nuisance abatement cases, then billing the impacted citizens thousands in lawyers’ fees.” [same]
  • “In light of the [Aaron] Persky recall, here are some studies on the impact of elections on judicial behavior. The story is consistent: elections make judges harsher, and there may be other costs as well (like lower-skilled people becoming judges).” [John Pfaff Twitter thread, earlier here, here, and here]
  • “CBP Sued For Seizing $41,000 From Airline Passenger, Then Refusing To Give It Back Unless She Promised Not To Sue” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
  • Even when suspects are in fact guilty, lies told to justify searches “corrupt the law in order to enforce it. That’s not how policing is supposed to work.” [Jonathan Blanks on Joseph Goldstein, New York Times investigation of police perjury (“testilying”)]

“Congress whiffs on curbing civil forfeiture”

“When Congress passed that big spending plan, an anticipated reform to civil forfeiture had been curiously abandoned. Darpana Sheth of the Institute for Justice comments” in this Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown.

On the other hand, there’s this from the state level: “Wisconsin joins Minnesota in signing law saying authorities now have to convict you of a crime before they can take your cash” [Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post/Grand Forks Herald]

Law enforcement for profit roundup

  • “When you find yourself threatening to find more reasons to put even more citizens in jail in order to protect your revenue stream, it’s maybe time to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.” [Scott Shackford on Alabama forfeiture debate]
  • How IRS spent $20 million on debt collection program that generated $6.7 million in payments [Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center]
  • “Federal Judge Strikes Down New York City’s Dragnet That Seized Thousands Of Cars Without Warrants” [Nick Sibilla, IJ/Forbes]
  • Prison phone calls and other captive markets: “Stop squeezing prisoners’ families for cash” [Megan McArdle]
  • “The high price of being wrongly accused in Alabama’s ‘monetized’ criminal justice system” [Ashley Remkus, Al.com]
  • “Cop Who Called Asset Forfeiture ‘A Tax-Liberating Goldmine’ Sued for Illegal Traffic Stop and Seizure” [C.J. Ciaramella; Kane County, Ill.]

For Long Island prosecutors, a merry forfeiture feast

“Prosecutors in Suffolk County, New York gave themselves $3.25 million in bonuses — from the asset forfeiture fund, of course.” [David Schwartz, Newsday]

P.S. Wyoming highway cops seized $91,800 from motorist Phil Parhamovich, claiming he gave it to them voluntarily; shortly after the Institute for Justice launched a national publicity campaign on the musician’s behalf, a judge reversed the seizure and ordered the money returned [Jacob Sullum/Reason, AP/Chicago Tribune] And a curious defense of the practice from a high Justice Department official [Tim Cushing, TechDirt (“DOJ: Civil Asset Forfeiture Is A Good Thing That Only Harms All Those Criminals We Never Arrest”)]