Something you should know by now:
One thing to add – these things require a valid picture ID.
Other places requiring valid picture IDs include the Department of Justice building and Michelle Obama’s book signings.
A good friend sends along this George Will column:
Russ Caswell, 68, is bewildered: “What country are we in?” He and his wife Pat are ensnared in a Kafkaesque nightmare unfolding in Orwellian language.
This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law – which is less permissive than federal law – in order to seize his livelihood and retirement asset. In the lawsuit titled United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million.
The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. They are being persecuted by two governments eager to profit from what is antiseptically called the “equitable sharing” of the fruits of civil forfeiture, a process of government enrichment that often is indistinguishable from robbery.
Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate – the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate – these 30 episodes involved less than five one-hundredths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days.
So we now have the local government and the federal government complicit in using this abysmal rights-violating drug law to take the property of the Caswells without giving them legal recourse to fight the charges.
By charging the property with a crime.
The government says the rooms were used to “facilitate” a crime. It does not say the Caswells knew or even that they were supposed to know what was going on in all their rooms all the time. Civil forfeiture law treats citizens worse than criminals, requiring them to prove their innocence – to prove they did everything possible to prevent those rare crimes from occurring in a few of those rooms. What counts as possible remains vague. The Caswells voluntarily installed security cameras, they photocopy customers’ identifications and record their license plates, and turn the information over to the police, who have never asked the Caswells to do more.
The Caswells are represented by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm. IJ explains that civil forfeiture is a proceeding in which property is said to have acted wrongly. This was useful long ago against pirates, who might be out of reach but whose ill-gotten gains could be seized. The Caswells, however, are not pirates.
No the pirates are among those in government and law enforcement who are attempting this travesty.
Constitutional? You tell me:
They are violating the Eighth Amendment, which has been construed to forbid “excessive fines” that deprive individuals of their livelihoods. And the federal “equitable sharing” program violates the 10th Amendment by vitiating state law, thereby enabling Congress to compel the states to adopt Congress’ policies where states possess a reserved power and primary authority – in the definition and enforcement of the criminal law.
“Equitable sharing” – the consensual splitting of ill-gotten loot by the looters – reeks of the moral hazard that exists in situations in which incentives are for perverse behavior. To see where this leads, read IJ’s scalding report “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” (http://ow.ly/aYME1), a sickening litany of law enforcement agencies padding their budgets and financing boondoggles by, for example, smelling, or imagining to smell, or pretending to smell, marijuana in cars they covet.
This happens more often than you might think, has been going on for decades, is immoral, unconstitutional and just flat wrong. I really don’t care what you think about the drug war. Civil asset forfeiture as it is done today is unacceptable regardless – or should be. I really don’t give a rip about whether or not it is “legal”. Many a dictator has made murder legal but it didn’t change the morality of the act, did it?
This must stop.
As I’ve mentioned before, this is one that burns me up about as much as anything that government/law enforcement does. Again, I want to make it clear – this nonsense exists because of the drug war.
Civil asset forfeiture is based on the premise that a piece of property — a car, a pile of cash, a house — can be guilty of a crime. Laws vary from state to state, but generally, law enforcement officials can seize property if they can show any connection between the property and illegal activity. It is then up to the owner of the property to prove in court that he owns it or earned it legitimately. It doesn’t require a property owner to actually be convicted of a crime. In fact, most people who lose property to civil asset forfeiture are never charged.
The laws were created to go after the ill-gotten gains of big-time dealers, but critics say they’ve since become a way for police departments to generate revenue — often by targeting lower-level offenders.
In fact, in the case I’m about to relate, law enforcement has put together as much a “sure thing” as can be imagined. Read this and be disgusted:
When the Brown County, Wis., Drug Task Force arrested her son Joel last February, Beverly Greer started piecing together his bail.
She used part of her disability payment and her tax return. Joel Greer’s wife also chipped in, as did his brother and two sisters. On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer’s bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. "The police specifically told us to bring cash," Greer says. "Not a cashier’s check or a credit card. They said cash."
So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she’d be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son.
Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers’ cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills — and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money.
"I told them the money had just come from the bank," Beverly Greer says. "We had just taken it out. If the money had drugs on it, then they should go seize all the money at the bank, too. I just don’t understand how they could do that."
The Greers had been subjected to civil asset forfeiture, a policy that lets police confiscate money and property even if they can only loosely connect them to drug activity. The cash, or revenue from the property seized, often goes back to the coffers of the police department that confiscated it. It’s a policy critics say is often abused, but experts told The HuffPost that the way the law is applied to bail money in Brown County is exceptionally unfair.
Indeed it was. Why? Because the county demanded cash, and, as Snopes tells us, about 80% of the cash in the US has traces of drugs on them (specifically cocaine):
In one 1985 study done by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on the money machines in a U.S. Federal Reserve district bank, random samples of $50 and $100 bills revealed that a third to a half of all currency tested bore traces of cocaine. Moreover, the machines themselves were often found to test positive, meaning that subsequent batches of cash fed through them would also pick up cocaine residue. Expert evidence given before a federal appeals court in 1995 showed that three out of four bills randomly examined in the Los Angeles area bore traces of the drug. In a 1997 study conducted at Argonne National laboratory, nearly four out of five bills in Chicago suburbs were found to bear discernible traces of cocaine. In another study, more than 135 bills from seven U.S. cities were tested and all but four were contaminated with traces of cocaine. These bills had been collected from restaurants, stores and banks in cities from Milwaukee to Dallas.
A single bill used to snort cocaine or otherwise mingled with the drug can contaminate an entire cash drawer. When counting and sorting machines (which fan the bills, and thus the cocaine) are factored in, it’s no wonder that so much of the currency now in circulation wouldn’t pass any purity tests.
Of course, you can bet Brown County law enforcement is completely aware of this little factoid, thus the cash requirement for bail and, for them, the profitable inevitable outcome.
That’s why I call it what it truly is – a scam to cheat people out of their money perpetrated by the very people whose job it is to protect you from scam artists. You have law enforcement knowingly setting up a situation in which they’re sure they’ll be able to take bail money under this civil asset forfeiture travesty because it will test positive for drugs.
In this case, it didn’t turn out so well for the thieves at the sheriff’s office:
It took four months for Beverly Greer to get her family’s money back, and then only after attorney Andy Williams agreed to take their case. "The family produced the ATM receipts proving that had recently withdrawn the money," Williams says. "Beverly Greer had documentation for her disability check and her tax return. Even then, the police tried to keep their money."
In this case there’s a fairly simple way to stop this sort of blatant thievery. More options for payment (cashier’s check) other than cash.
However, it is civil asset forfeiture that needs to go the way of the Dodo bird:
In 2010, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian law firm, rated the forfeiture laws in all 50 states, assigning higher grades to states with fairer policies. The firm gave Wisconsin a "C." When there’s less than $2,000 at stake, law enforcement agencies in the state get to keep 70 percent of what they take. If more than $2,000 is taken, departments can keep half.
But in all states, police agencies can contact the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), making the case federal, and under federal law, local police departments can keep up to 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds, with the rest going to the Department of Justice. The institute reports that between 2000 and 2008, police agencies in Wisconsin took in $50 million from this "equitable sharing" program with the federal government.
When provided such an incentive, what is the usual reaction? As demonstrated by this particular case where they took bail money, it has nothing to do with the pursuit of “big-time dealers” does it? Instead, they’re just after low hanging fruit, which in this case also happened to be low-income people who had to scrape and borrow just to raise the bail.
That’s “law enforcement”?
That’s scamming the public for profit. And it is an inexcusable breach of trust between law enforcement and the public.
If anyone should be in jail, it is those who’ve perpetrated this travesty and those who use it to cheat the public.
For a libertarian blog, this is a subject that we rarely opine about. Probably because its a rather dead horse that just doesn’t need any more beating. Even so, we do all too often have occasion to discuss the ill effects of the War on (Some) Drugs, such as the asset seizure case Bruce highlighted.
In that vein, Randy Barnett offers up his latest law review on the subject “The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition” and this abstract:
Some drugs make people feel good. That is why some people use them. Some of these drugs are alleged to have side effects so destructive that many advise against their use. The same may be said about statutes that attempt to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of drugs. Advocating drug prohibition makes some people feel good because they think they are “doing something” about what they believe to be a serious social problem. Others who support these laws are not so altruistically motivated. Employees of law enforcement bureaus and academics who receive government grants to study drug use, for example, may gain financially from drug prohibition. But as with using drugs, using drug laws can have moral and practical side effects so destructive that they argue against ever using legal institutions in this manner.
This article will not attempt to identify and “weigh” the costs of drug use against the costs of drug laws. Instead, it will focus exclusively on identifying the harmful side effects of drug law enforcement and showing why these effects are unavoidable. So one-sided a treatment is justified for two reasons. First, a cost-benefit or cost-cost analysis may simply be impossible. Second, discussions by persons who support illegalizing drugs usually emphasize only the harmful effects of drug use while largely ignoring the serious costs of such policies. By exclusively relating the other side of the story, this article is intended to inject some balance into the normal debate.
The harmful side-effects of drug laws have long been noted by a number of commentators, although among the general public the facts are not as well known as they should be. More importantly, even people who agree about the facts fail to grasp that it is the nature of the means — coercion — chosen to pursue the suppression of voluntary consumptive activity that makes these effects unavoidable. This vital and overlooked connection is the main subject of this article.
It’s a pretty interesting read. You can download the entire article by visiting Randy’s post linked above.
From my earliest days of blogging I’ve been talking about this (i.e. civil forfeiture) and still, nothing has been done to stop it. It is legalized theft, plain and simple. And it still makes me as angry as can be:
"If somebody told me this happened to them, I absolutely would not believe this could happen in America."
That was the reaction of a New Jersey man who found out just how risky it can be to carry cash through Tennessee.
In this latest case, a Monterey police officer took $22,000 off the driver — even though he had committed no crime.
"You live in the United States, you think you have rights — and apparently you don’t," said George Reby.
I want you to read carefully the arrogance implicit in the “law” that these sorts of forfeitures represent. A more convoluted and outrageous example of the tyranny of the law I can’t imagine (although I’m sure there are many):
Reby was driving down Interstate 40, heading west through Putnam County, when he was stopped for speeding.
A Monterey police officer wanted to know if he was carrying any large amounts of cash.
"I said, ‘Around $20,000,’" he recalled. "Then, at the point, he said, ‘Do you mind if I search your vehicle?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t mind.’ I certainly didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong. It was my money."
That’s when Officer Larry Bates confiscated the cash based on his suspicion that it was drug money.
"Why didn’t you arrest him?" we asked Bates.
"Because he hadn’t committed a criminal law," the officer answered.
Uh, then why did you take his freakin’ money?
Bates said the amount of money and the way it was packed gave him reason to be suspicious.
"The safest place to put your money if it’s legitimate is in a bank account," he explained. "He stated he had two. I would put it in a bank account. It draws interest and it’s safer."
"But it’s not illegal to carry cash," we noted.
"No, it’s not illegal to carry cash," Bates said. "Again, it’s what the cash is being used for to facilitate or what it is being utilized for."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "But you had no proof that money was being used for drug trafficking, correct? No proof?"
"And he couldn’t prove it was legitimate," Bates insisted.
He shouldn’t have to prove anything. Not his freakin’ job! That’s the law’s job. And as is obvious, they’ve got zip in that regard. But that aside, they also have his money.
Read the rest if you have the stomach for it. It actually gets worse.
This has been going on for years and years. It is a legal travesty driven by the “war on drugs”, it is taking without due process and it should have been stopped years ago.
Yet here we are.
I’ll just put this up here with minimal comment and let you folks provide the narrative:
Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives – for up to six hours after their death.
The controversial new law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
It will also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women’s rights of getting education and employment.
Yup, much better than before. A veritable leap into the 21st century, no? Definitely a secular and liberal triumph, right?
Oh … and out of curiosity, what if he waits till 7 hours after death, what happens?
When the oral arguments were being made for ObamaCare, I made the observation that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli sounded like a man trying to defend arguments he really didn’t believe in. Add to that the fact that they were weak arguments and you have a man facing the Supreme Court who sounded like he was in over his head.
Verrilli had another such day yesterday, as John Hinderaker at Powerline notes. This time the court was hearing arguments about the Arizona immigration law. Hinderaker reviewed the transcript of Verilli’s arguments and concluded, “the problem was not with Verrilli but rather with the quality of the arguments that he was required to make by his client, the Obama administration.”
JUSTICE KENNEDY: So you’re saying the government has a legitimate interest in not enforcing its laws?
GENERAL VERRILLI: No. We have a legitimate interest in enforcing the law, of course, but it needs to be — but these — this Court has said over and over again, has recognized that the — the balance of interest that has to be achieved in enforcing the — the immigration laws is exceedingly delicate and complex, and it involves consideration of foreign relations, it involves humanitarian concerns, and it also involves public order and public –
Hinderaker calls the response “incoherent”. Scalia follows up:
JUSTICE SCALIA: So we have to — we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico. Is that what you’re saying?
GENERAL VERRILLI: No, Your Honor, but what — no, Your Honor, I’m not saying that –
JUSTICE SCALIA: Sounded like what you were saying.
That’s pretty pointed. That also indicates that the argument isn’t resonating with the court. Hinderaker summarizes the argument that Verrilli is being forced to defend:
Of course, what is going on here is that the Obama administration doesn’t want to enforce the immigration laws that Congress has enacted. The essence of its position in the Arizona case is that the federal government has the right to decide not to enforce the law, and if it so decides, then no state has the power, under the Constitution, to do anything that would tend to enforce those federal laws. So if the Obama administration decides that it will gain political advantage by ignoring federal laws against illegal immigration, states like Arizona just have to take the consequences without complaining.
That understanding is what is driving questions like those from Scalia and Kennedy. It is indeed an indefensible position, especially in a nation that claims to be a nation of laws, not men.
How indefensible? Even Justice Sotomayor isn’t buying:
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Can I get to a different question? I think even I or someone else cut you off when you said there were three reasons why — 2(B). Putting aside your argument that this — that a systematic cooperation is wrong — you can see it’s not selling very well — why don’t you try to come up with something else? Because I, frankly — as the chief has said to you, it’s not that it’s forcing you to change your enforcement priorities. You don’t have to take the person into custody. So what’s left of your argument?
Of course this sets up the inevitable “shock” on the left. I’m sure they thought that, as in the case of ObamaCare, their arguments were Constitutionally ironclad.
While Verrilli may not be the smoothest SG we’ve ever had, he’s been consistently thrust before the court with abysmal arguments in which he is forced to defend laws or actions which are at best questionably constitutional. At best.
When even a Obama appointed justice isn’t buying the administration’s argument, well, it must be a pretty lousy argument. And, of course, claiming the right not to enforce the law and then claiming Constitutional cover to force states to have to live with the results of the federal government’s decision not to enforce the laws of the land is a pretty lousy argument.
But that’s what he’s stuck with.
Obviously none of this means the court will end up finding for Arizona. But, as Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS blog points out, indications seem to point to some interest in the court in doing so:
In an oral argument that ran 20 minutes beyond the scheduled hour, the Justices focused tightly on the actual operation of the four specific provisions of the law at issue, and most of the Court seemed prepared to accept that Arizona police would act in measured ways as they arrest and detain individuals they think might be in the U.S. illegally. And most of the Justices seemed somewhat skeptical that the federal government would have to change its own immigration priorities just because states were becoming more active.
At the end of the argument in Arizona v. United States (11-182), though, the question remained how a final opinion might be written to enlarge states’ power to deal with some 12 million foreign nationals without basing that authority upon the Scalia view that states have a free hand under the Constitution to craft their own immigration policies. The other Justices who spoke up obviously did not want to turn states entirely loose in this field. So perhaps not all of the four clauses would survive — especially vulnerable may be sections that created new state crimes as a way to enforce federal immigration restrictions.
As should be clear, there seems to be an interest in accommodating portions of the Arizona law that the court feels are “reasonable”. That is contrary to what the left assured us would be the courts position on Arizona’s “draconian” immigration law.
In fact, should the court find for Arizona in some of the key provisions, I’m sure we’ll hear the left’s usual defense – judicial activism.
The irony, of course, is that the Obama economy has been the best means of reversing the tide of illegal immigration. According to reports we now have net illegal emigration taking place.
That seems like the perfect point to settle this. The federal government, under the Constitution, has a legal obligation to enforce the laws passed by Congress. It hasn’t been doing that. And that’s the real point here. It will be interesting to see how the court handles that particular point. Meanwhile, it appears that key portions of the AZ bill may survive.
Iguess we’ve moved into the realm of “guilty until you prove yourself innocent”:
The Republican House of Representatives may soon follow the Democratic Senate and give the IRS the power to confiscate your passport on mere suspicion of owing taxes. There’s no place like home, comrade.
‘America, Love It Or Leave It" might be an obsolete slogan if the "bipartisan transportation bill" that just passed the Senate is approved by the House and becomes law. Contained within the suspiciously titled "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act," or "MAP 21," is a provision that gives the Internal Revenue Service the power to keep U.S. citizens from leaving the country if it finds that they owe $50,000 or more in unpaid taxes — no court ruling necessary.
Note … “mere suspicion”. Like the IRS screws up its audit and thinks you owe more than you do (and at least $50k), your passport is yanked without going to court.
Let freedom ring, eh?
And, as the lede points out, it isn’t just the Democrats. Another attempt by both parties to shred the Constitution.
This is not the sort of power an unaccountable agency should be given. Any idea of how many people will suddenly find themselves on the wrong end of a suspicion they owe $50k or more in taxes? Whether true or not, with the power to grab your passport and only a suspicion needed (no court order), the IRS will likely “suspect” many people owe at least that much.
That’s certainly consistent with the history of such granted power. Go to the extreme quickly – there’s no reason not too. No penalty for them, certainly. Oh, you don’t owe $50k? Here’s your passport.
“Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century”?
Since when is changing the IRS to a form of the KGB a “move ahead?”
Whore-gate? Who is going to hang the “gate” on the Secret Service scandal?
But it is interesting, isn’t it? The head of the Secret Service claimed yesterday that the behavior of this team was not “indicative” of the rest of the Service’s behavior.
Yeah, sorry, I find that hard to believe, at least at this point. Something gave this team the belief that they could do what they did and get away with it. Leaders claiming such nonsense are always suspect. I just don’t buy into this one advance team being an outlier.
I would assume, as a matter of leadership, that more senior members of the service make it a point to travel with advance teams without advance notice just to see how well the teams function and do their job. Or at least I’d hope so.
Leadership is about supervision. It’s about getting off your rear and checking out how well your unit functions, how closely they follow SOP and how well leaders junior to you do their jobs.
Why am I getting the feeling that’s not the case in the Secret Service? Because of this fiasco in Columbia.
Now its been revealed that the President’s schedule was laying around in the hotel rooms they brought the hookers too. Security? Where?
I’ve also heard it said, mostly as an excuse, that they were “off duty”. Sorry, that’s a no-go. There are certain standards of conduct that are required in particular organizations that really never allow one to be “off duty”. What a member of that unit does even when not actively engaged in their job reflects on their organization and could compromise their integrity.
For instance, in this case, how difficult would it be to blackmail a Secret Service agent who knows that revealing his consorting with prostitutes would cost him his job?
This isn’t the first case of Agent misconduct. But it is the most widespread and possibly one of the worst cases. It speaks of a leadership problem to me. Someone in a leadership position was trusted to lead an advance team. That means those in higher leadership positions trusted this person to carry out the job professionally, morally and with integrity. Someone was very mistaken. That puts the entire leadership of the Secret Service under the microscope, not just this team.
The seriousness of this had me shake my head when I read this:
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Secret Service, is weighing whether to launch an investigation into the prostitution allegations.
Weighing whether to launch an investigation?
Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court concerning his signature legislation, ObamaCare, and the possibility of it being over turned can’t help but make one wonder how such an attack would be received by the public at large.
Well, if this Rasmussen poll is to be believed, not very well:
While President Obama cautioned the U.S. Supreme Court this past week about overturning his national health care law, just 15% of Likely U.S. Voters think the high court puts too many limitations on what the federal government can do.
In fact, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that twice as many–30%– believe the Supreme Court does not limit the government enough. Forty percent (40%) say the balance is about right, while 15% more are undecided.
So in the great scheme of things, given this poll is accurate, more Americans than not (in fact about twice as many) are concerned the Supreme Court doesn’t limit the government enough. Hmmm …. no leverage there for the administration.
In fact, 70% of Americans find that SCOTUS is about right or needs to limit government even more.
It points to an argument the administration can start, but is unlikely to win. In fact, it would appear that most Americans, according to this survey, see the SCOTUS as a vital governor on the engine of run-away government. And they surely don’t agree that the court has acted out of the main for the most part.
That, of course, doesn’t bode well for a campaign to smear the court, does it?
Let’s see if this administration realizes that and backs off or, as it has many times in the past, blindly and arrogantly charges on.