Posts Tagged ‘forfeiture’

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”)]

Law enforcement for profit roundup

  • In Mississippi, a “mother has been forbidden from any contact with her newborn for 14 of the 18 months the child has been alive” because of unpaid misdemeanor fines [Radley Balko, WLBT/MSNewsNow; judge has now resigned, but similar practices reported to be common] Is Biloxi going to do better? [ABA Journal]
  • “They … didn’t give it back”: outrageous tales of asset forfeiture from Alabama [Connor Sheets, AL.com]
  • Efforts afoot in Lansing to write down nearly $595 million in unpaid Michigan drivers’ fees [Chad Livengood, Crain’s Detroit Business] Warren, Mich., residents invited to turn in neighbors on suspicion, win bounties from forfeiture funds [Scott Shackford]
  • Ethical red flags: maker of heroin-cessation compound “marketing directly to drug court judges and other officials.” [Jake Harper, NPR]
  • In Craighead County, Arkansas, private probation firms sue judges who cut them out of the process [Andrew Cohen, The Marshall Project]
  • From Ohio “mayor’s courts” to asset forfeiture, prosecution for profit imperils due process [Jacob Sullum]

Unanimous House backs IRS structuring seizure reform

A victory worth cheering for due process and property rights: the U.S. House has unanimously approved a bill that would curb IRS seizure of bank accounts premised on the owners’ having engaged in a pattern of deposits or withdrawals below the $10,000 reporting threshold (“structuring forfeiture”). The measure would 1) codify a recent IRS practice of not keeping money if no underlying illegality were found such as tax evasion or income from unlawful sources; 2) assure account holders a quick hearing after a seizure, a process that can now drag out for long periods. [Institute for Justice press release; Michael Cohn, Accounting Today] The Treasury inspector general found that “in a whopping 91 percent of sampled cases, the laws were being used to forfeit assets from individuals and businesses found to have obtained their income legally.” [Michael Haugen, The Hill, April]

I’ve been writing on this issue for years. The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY), is called the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act; I’ve written about the structuring case of Maryland farmer Randy Sowers here and here.

Crime and punishment roundup

  • “This Massachusetts Lawmaker Wants to Throw Folks in Prison for Having Secret Car Compartments” [Scott Shackford; earlier on compartment bans here, here, and here]
  • Traffic stops dangerous and intrusive. Why not focus them where they’re most needed? [Steve Chapman] More: a different view from Scott Greenfield;
  • Why is AG Sessions enabling forfeiture end runs by police around their own state lawmakers? It’s not good federalism [Natalie Delgadillo, Governing] Angling to end suit, Philadelphia offers to end use of asset forfeiture funds for law enforcement [Robert Moran, Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • White-collar prosecution: “Time To Revisit The Yates Memo?” [Robert Bork, Jr.]
  • What happened when Rhode Island inadvertently legalized indoor prostitution [Elana Gordon, NewsWorks]
  • What if U.S. Department of Justice policies had to be run through OIRA regulatory review for cost-benefit comparison, as many other agencies’ do? [Mark Osler, Marshall Project]