Tag Archives: Policing for Profit

Booking Fees and Incarceration Costs; The Latest Revenue Generation Tools For Money Hungry Governments

The Supreme Court is preparing to consider the legality of a couple of new methods the police and courts have devised to generate revenue for the State. Several states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Kentucky, have begun implementing fees and “incarceration cost” reimbursement charges against those who are arrested as a way to raise money for police and governmental budgets.

Much like their earlier forerunner to policing for profit, asset forfeiture and seizure laws, these fees are not based on a conviction and many times those subjected to them don’t even end up having charges filed against them. Another similarity is that the process for recouping them are either non-existent or so difficult or expensive that it generally makes it not worth the effort and most people simply allow the theft to stand.

Of course, that’s the point, since the policies have nothing to do with justice, but rather are solely intended to raise revenue for the State and its enforcement structures.

Via the New York Times:

Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham’s challenge to Ramsey County’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., “city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,” a Justice Department report found last year.

An unusual coalition of civil rights organizations, criminal defense lawyers and conservative and libertarian groups have challenged these sorts of policies, saying they confiscate private property without constitutional protections and lock poor people into a cycle of fines, debts and jail.

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate challenge to a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars. That case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be argued on Jan. 9.

The Colorado law requires people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

The sums at issue are smaller in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. But they are taken from people who have merely been arrested. Some of them will never be charged with a crime. Others, like Mr. Statham, will have the charges against them dismissed. Still others will be tried but acquitted.

It is all the same to the county, which does not return the $25 booking fee even if the arrest does not lead to a conviction. Instead, it requires people like Mr. Statham to submit evidence to prove they are entitled to get their money back.

When the case was argued last year before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, a lawyer for the county acknowledged that its process was in tension with the presumption of innocence.

“There is some legwork involved,” the lawyer, Jason M. Hiveley said, but noted that it is possible for blameless people to get their $25 back. “They can do it as soon as they have the evidence that they haven’t been found guilty.”

The legwork proved too much for Mr. Statham. He never got his $25 back.

He did get a debit card for the remaining $21. But there was no practical way to extract his cash without paying some kind of fee. Among them: $1.50 a week for “maintenance” of the unwanted card, starting after 36 hours; $2.75 for using an A.T.M. to withdraw money; $3 for transferring the balance to a bank account; and $1.50 for checking the balance.

In its appeals court brief, the county said the debit cards were provided “for the convenience of the inmates,” who might find it hard to cash a check.

Mr. Statham is represented by Michael A. Carvin, a prominent conservative lawyer who has argued Supreme Court caseschallenging the Affordable Care Act and fees charged by public unions.

Mr. Carvin said the county’s motives were not rooted in solicitude for the people it had arrested. “Revenue-starved local governments are increasingly turning toward fees like Ramsey County’s in order to bridge their budgetary gaps,” he wrote in a Supreme Court brief. “But the unilateral decision of a single police officer cannot possibly justify summarily confiscating money.”

“Providing a profit motive to make arrests,” he said, “gives officers an incentive to make improper arrests.”

Obviously, these debit cards with their outrageous fees are anything but convenient. Also, while it’s beside the point from the start, the notion that an arbitrary fee based on no crime having been committed is valid because in the eyes of the courts it is not a large fee represents a unnecessary and undue hardship for many poor people that are barely making it on what they have already.

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NYPD Civil Asset Forfeiture Thefts Have Spurred Federal Class Action Lawsuit

NYPD Civil Asset Forfeiture Lawsuit
As everyone in the world (and several other parts of the galaxy) knows, civil asset forfeiture laws are essentially a license to steal for police departments. Without any real or substantial evidence being required, members of the Gang in Blue are given the opportunity to snatch cash and other valuables from citizens not affiliated with the mafia family they work for.

Even if those that have had their money and/or property stolen are never convicted or even charged with a crime, it’s very difficult and sometimes impossible for them to get those possessions back. Not only is there no legal burden for the government to prove what they stole was derived from illegal activity, victims of their thievery are instead forced to prove a negative and show that it wasn’t.

There’s no shortage of examples of innocent motorists being preyed upon by Road Pirates, many times based on nothing except the fact that they have out of state license plates. Sometimes, it’s just a crime of opportunity and nothing more. I.E. some very minor “infraction” is spotted by a Revenue Generator and they use that as a pretense to pull a driver over when the true and sole purpose is just to troll for something worth stealing.

The other common source of forfeiture plunder is even more problematic. Along with that license to steal comes a license to kill during drug raids. Once those Drug Warriors suit up in their military gear, strap on their military weapons, and climb into their military vehicles, even babies sleeping in their cribs and innocent neighbors aren’t safe. But that money ain’t gonna steal itself and drugs aren’t gonna disappear from evidence lockers by them self. You know how the old saying about omelets go: sometimes you gotta murder an innocent, 92 year old woman and then plant drugs at her house if you wanna steal her money.

Civil Asset Forfeiture CashOver the years, the for-profit policing methods spurred by the advent of asset seizure laws have been so lucrative that many police departments, especially those in small otherwise crime free communities, have come to derive a good percentage, if not the majority, of their budgets from a combination of forfeiture theft and speedtrap/checkpoint revenue (the latter often overlapping with the former). As was reported by CopBlock Network contributor Asa Jay last week, the Road Pirates in Oklahoma have even come up with a way of stealing money from debit cards recently.

Obviously, New York is a big enough city to have other ways of stealing from citizens beyond relying solely on the police to shake people down directly. However, the world’s seventh largest army, otherwise known as the NYPD, does its share of fleecing people within that city, too. After all, when you have access to what amounts to free money, why not take advantage? (Outside of ethical reasons, which they constantly prove aren’t an issue for them.)

In fact, they have a pretty elaborate system and a set of co-conspirators within the District Attorney’s office working to ensure that people don’t get their money and property back once police find an excuse to grab it. The Bronx Defenders, a law firm that has filed a class action lawsuit against the NYPD on behalf of the victims of asset forfeiture within the city has detailed just how their scheme works within the suit and it’s really pretty simple.

Via the New York Daily News:

“They have set up such a complicated process that some people give up and never get their property back,” said lead attorney Molly Kovel of The Bronx Defenders.

Kaleb Hagis, one of the new plaintiffs, said cops seized his car, $2,932 in cash and four cell phones when he was arrested in Sept. 2015. His vehicle was returned in December, but he is still fighting to get the phones and cash — even though charges against him were dropped in March.

He said the Bronx District Attorney’s office has refused to issue release forms necessary for the NYPD property clerk to hand over the items…

After putting in a request to the NYPD property clerk for the items, an individual has 270 days to get a release form from the district attorney.

After that deadline, the NYPD can “dispose” of the property.

“My case was dismissed,” said plaintiff Kenneth Clavasquin, whose phone was seized when he was arrested in June of last year. “I don’t understand why I can’t get my phone back from the city!”

The original plaintiff, Victor Encarnacion, said he only received his phone taken during his November 2014 arrest after the lawsuit was filed earlier this year and seveal months after his case was dismissed.

Requests by his attorneys were ignored, according to the complaint. During a Sept. 2015 visit to the DA’s office with his attorney, Encarnacion was told he could not get a release.

It’s a good racket if you can run it. After you steal people’s property you give them a limited amount of time to get it back before you are allowed to “dispose” of it. Then you get your friends at the DA’s office to stonewall them until that time runs out. Robbing banks is for amateurs.

Fortunately for them, the guy who gets to decide whether they have to stop stealing people’s money is also on the same payroll as them. More than likely, at worst their robed co-worker will just make it just a little bit more difficult for them to snatch people’s stuff.

John Oliver, of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” explains civil forfeiture laws

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“Justice” For The Wealthy, Law Enforcement For The Poor

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “America’s Divided Justice System.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

The post consists of a book review of “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapby Matt Taibbi. That book relates to what is effectively two different “justice” systems faced by the wealthy and the poor, minorities, and immigrants. The latter group is the target of enforcement policies such as “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” that emphasize cracking down on even the most minor of crimes, often times consisting of victimless crimes. In contrast, the former group benefits from policies that have come to be referred to as “too be to fail” or “too big to jail” that effectively allow fraud and other financial crimes when committed by wealthy people.

Obviously, the disparity between the ability of wealthy people and poor people to hire lawyers, expend time, and utilize personal connections within that system in order to fight any charges they may face exacerbate those differing experiences with the judicial system even further.

America’s Divided Justice System

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (2014).

One does not often find it a pleasant surprise to receive unpleasant information, but this is a reaction many readers will get from Matt Taibbi’s 2014 book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. While the book has largely been billed as a piece on the evils of growing economic inequality in the US, a more accurate description would be that it documents the discrepancy in how the American legal system treats wealthy offenders as opposed to poor ones. Taibbi’s thesis is that America’s legal system lets the wealthy get away with massive injustices, while the poor, racial minorities and immigrants are faced with draconian punishments (not to mention nightmarish bureaucracy) for minor violations and even unsubstantiated allegations. The picture he paints is not a pleasant one, but the author’s storytelling ability and grasp of the subject matter make for a surprisingly enjoyable read.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Matt Taibbi is best known as a generally left-of-center columnist for Rolling Stone, for which he is arguably the star political writer. He has also written for The Nation, Playboy and New York Press as well as several books of his own. While Taibbi is clearly in the liberal or social democratic camp, The Divide offers much that is of interest to libertarians, especially where it criticizes the excesses of bureaucracy and the prosecution of victim-less crimes. Left libertarians especially will appreciate that the book strongly echoes their concerns that the state actively takes actions that make the poor even worse off. While Taibbi uses statistics to make his case, the real driving force of the book is his depictions of specific examples of injustices. In these anecdotes the human consequences of plutocracy are vividly illustrated.

Taibbi alternates between stories of white collar criminal activity going unpunished and mean-spirited state aggression leveled at poor people. This does well to illustrate Taibbi’s point that the rich and poor in America live in two different worlds when it comes to treatment by law enforcement. However it may be the book’s biggest weakness for some readers who will find the back and fourth changes in setting distracting. To his credit, Taibbi ultimately ties his narratives together, asserting that lax treatment for the rich and overly harsh punishment of the poor combine to form a dystopian reality.

Taibbi begins with Eric Holder, the Clinton administration official who would become Attorney General under Barack Obama. In the late nineties Holder authored a memo which made explicit the concept of “Collateral Consequences.” Holder argued that courts could consider the indirect negative economic consequences of subjecting large companies to legal penalties if a court ruled against them. This idea would later become known as “too big to fail” and by extension “too big to jail.”  Between his time with the Clinton and Obama administrations, Holder worked with Covington and Burling, a law firm that pioneered the use of “Collateral Consequences” to keep major companies from facing legal penalties. Taibbi largely credits the Clinton administration for passing laws which  exacerbated the disparity in legal punishment between the rich and the poor. Specifically he notes that Clinton’s presidency marked a time of agreement between democrats and republicans on “getting tough on crime,” specifically crime committed by poor people. leading to the escalated war on drugs and increased prison population (specifically the black prison population) during Clinton’s presidency. This was coupled with an increased leniency towards crimes committed in the financial sector. Taibbi claims it is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs was among the biggest contributors to both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns (not to mention Hillary Clinton’s current campaign).

All of this occurred during a sharp decrease in overall crime, which continued through the 2000’s. Taibbi notes that as crime decreased police officers whose performance and promotion potential was evaluated on numbers of arrests were forced to chase increasingly pettier offenses. Police adopted a wide net strategy, comparable to fishing with dynamite, in which large numbers of ostensibly “suspicious” poor or working class people would be searched, arrested, ticketed, or issued summons for minor violations which they may or may not have committed. These offenders almost certainly did not have the time or money to fight the allegations in court. Arrests for marijuana and violations like “blocking pedestrian traffic” sky-rocketed. Taibbi discusses one instance where the accused chose to fight this particular allegation due to the fact that the supposed offense took place on a morning when there was no pedestrian traffic. His own defender and the judge had little knowledge of how to handle this as the entire system is set up to encourage guilty pleas for such offenses. In another instance cops accuse a young man of drawing graffiti in black ink with a pink highlighter. Unsurprisingly police cruelty, dishonesty and downright stupidity are often on full display in this book.

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Taibbi gives a great deal of attention to Howard Safir, the Giuliani-appointed New York Police Commissioner, who expanded the “Broken Windows” and “Zero Tolerance” policies of his more well known predecessor Bill Bratton, with an even greater focus on arresting and fining people for petty offenses. Under Safir, arrests for marijuana sky rocketed. Taibbi notes that the accused faced hours on end at court hearings, in which large numbers of cases are reviewed by judges who themselves would rather be anywhere else. The court appearances and other bureaucratic red tape often forced the accused to take time off from work or seek child care that they otherwise would not have to. Taibbi discusses many of the violations reviewed as “administrative crimes” which while technically illegal do not cause demonstrable harm to anyone. While crime with actual victims had gone down, police focused on violations of arbitrary statutes. Illegal immigration is one example. Taibbi relates this to occurrences of police setting up “drunk driving” checkpoints at the roads going in and out of immigrant neighborhoods during times when people would come and go to work. He notes that the increased deportations that occurred under the Obama administration enabled a massive kidnapping industry in Latin America, in which kidnappers would locate deportees while seeking ransoms from their remaining relatives in the US.

Elsewhere Taibbi discusses the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its secret backroom deal with the English firm Barclays that ripped off millions from smaller creditors around the world. This section is an excellent primer on the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. As is the chapter on JPMorgan Chase, which committed massive fraud involving fake credit card judgement. He notes that the business of collecting delinquent credit card debt itself relies on fraud, as it would be uneconomical for collection agencies to review the actual records of the alleged debtors. Often they instead employ “robo-signing” (the practice of having entry level staffers sign as many documents as possible, without actually reading them) and “gutter service” where a server may or may not deliver a summons to an accused who may or may not show up to contest the allegation. In all cases discussed, real people are genuinely harmed and the perpetrators are never given more than negligible fines. He also contrasts the treatment of crimes committed by HSBC (a firm that has worked with murderous drug cartels and Islamist terrorists) to the disproportionately worse treatment of small time drug users.

In one of the more interesting stories of the book, a gang of well-funded hedge fund managers attempt to bully the owner of a smaller insurance firm, Fairfax Financial Holdings, into going out of business through an elaborate campaign of harassment, threats, late-night phone calls, and phony accusations of a criminal activity. This may be of interest to libertarians looking for a starting point to a discussion of what forms of malicious activity do and do not violate the non-aggression principle. Similarly, Taibbi’s discussion of welfare recipients who largely forgo their right to freedom from government search and seizure without probable cause is a potential starting point for conversation. Such people are often subject to inspectors rooting through their underwear drawers and bathrooms looking for evidence of unreported income. While Taibbi’s sympathy for people on welfare may rub some mainstream libertarians the wrong way, he argues that regardless whether one opposes the welfare state or not, one should find this excessive, especially when such zeal for fraud prevention is not matched when it comes to white-collar criminals committing the same crimes on a larger scale.

Banner - Tunnel1Overall Taibbi finds that the poor are subject to bureaucracy while the rich are able to become bureaucracies in and of themselves by hiring lawyers capable of generating decades of red tape for anyone who makes any accusation against them. He feels that America has such love for and fear of people with power and money and disdain for those who lack it, that its people allow two divergent class-based legal systems to govern. The book is an engaging and often entertaining read that will likely find a sympathetic ear from anyone who values justice.

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Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

This post relates to the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable members of society by law enforcement and the court system. Oftentimes, people of lower economic classes and especially minorities within that demographic end up in jail and/or prison simply because they don’t have the means to defend themselves from allegations made against them. This also makes it that much more likely innocent people will accept plea deals just to avoid serving more jail time while awaiting trial and/or to avoid the risk of more severe punishment should they lose.

A significant percentage of those “crimes” they are prosecuted for are victimless crimes in the first place and many are actually predicated on conditions created by poverty. In addition, minor crimes of that nature often lead to more harsh punishments for future transgressions by creating a long criminal record that is used to justify tougher sentences, even though that record consists of things more affluent people would never be arrested or prosecuted for. In many cases, building a criminal record based on such minor offenses is an intentional strategy used by law enforcement against the poor for that very reason.

Previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on CopBlock.org can be found here, here, here, and here. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor

The New York Times recently reported that on March 13th, Jeffery Pendleton was found dead in his jail cell. Pendleton was a homeless man who lived in New Hampshire and had been arrested on March 8th for outstanding fines and possession of small amounts of marijuana. His set bail of $100 was prohibitively costly for him and he was left to languish in his cell until trial, over a month later.

According to New Hampshire’s state experts, there were no sign of foul play.

Pendleton’s family disagrees, saying on a GoFundMe campaign that aims to bring Pendleton’s body home: “His body has been viewed by a second source and we have found that we were lied to by the medical examiner in New Hampshire as well as the jail. … The second report completed in Arkansas states there are clear indications that Jeffery was harmed prior to his death and likely that harmed caused his death.”

Pendleton’s death, whether a freak accident or something more, reflects a disturbing trend of individuals, particularly lower-income and people of color, dying in jail cells. Another high-profile victim, a black woman named Sandra Bland, died after only three days in jail in 2013. Her death was ruled a suicide but her family, like Pendleton’s, disagreed.

Prison Profits Poor PeopleIn practice, jails tend to work as places where lower-income people must be processed and held until they can be processed again. As Gilles Bissonnette, a director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said of Pendleton’s case, “at that point, he would have effectively served his sentence before he ever had an opportunity to contest the charge — an outcome that only a poor person would be confronted with.”

The issue of prohibitively high bail is serious enough that the Department of Justice (DoJ) released an official statement around the time of Pendleton’s death. Such statements don’t have the force of law, but they can influence shifts in policy by making the federal government’s position clear on a given issue.

At one point the statement says “[b]ail that is set without regard to defendants’ financial capacity can result in the incarceration of individuals not because they pose a threat to public safety or a flight risk, but rather because they cannot afford the assigned bail amount.”

As such, jails are often used as pre-detention centers that skirt around Constitutional requirements of “fair and equal treatment” under the law. If poor people are regularly locked up and have bail set without regard to their ability to pay then equality under the law seems like an unlikely outcome.

But even if we tried to make bail set partly on the basis of financial stability and well-being, this would not be enough. Whether it comes to police and civil forfeiture, the criminal justice system and plea deals, or the prison industrial complex, the state’s profit motive leads them to seek monopoly profits to the disadvantage of the accused and convicted.

As the New York Times notes, this report by the DoJ, “…echoes the conclusions of the Justice Department’s investigation of the Police Department and court in Ferguson, Mo. Investigators there concluded that the court was a moneymaking venture, not an independent branch of government.”

But “independence” is a meaningless term when the government has created and reinforced perverse incentives that treat individuals as a stream of revenue. Fixing that isn’t going to be accomplished by sending letters to courts and politely asking them to change. In fact, the way to affect change isn’t to ask nicely for the government to play by its own rules. We’ve been doing that for too long to no avail.

It’s time we made up our own rules and played by them ourselves in peaceful and creative ways. This means building alternative forms of dealing with crime that don’t rely on punishment being the focus of rehabilitation. It also means not treating money as the sole way that people can help atone for their offenses.

But of course, Pendleton didn’t do anything wrong.

Well, besides being poor.

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Civil Asset Seizure Restrictions Now in Effect in Montana and New Mexico

Asset Forfeiture ProfitsOn Wednesday, laws enacted earlier in the year in Montana and New Mexico went into effect, limiting the ability of police and other law enforcement agencies to use civil asset seizure laws within those states. Civil asset seizures, also commonly known as forfeiture laws, have been some of the biggest drivers of police abuses since they were partnered with the “War on (Some) Drugs” back in the eighties. The size, militarization, and lethality of police departments have all increased in leaps and bounds over the past few decades, as a result of that unholy partnership.

Once the easy access to cash that seizure laws created became a temptation and, in many cases, evolved into a budgetary necessity for police departments and local governments across the country, abuses skyrocketed. Oftentimes, lethal raids and prosecutions have been predicated more on the desire and expectation of collecting assets from the target than ant actual strength of evidence. Along the way, there’s been numerous high profile cases where that evidence and other probable cause elements were even fabricated outright.

Civil Asset Forfeiture IncreaseThe hunger for cash has precipitated an increasing tendency toward the prosecution of victimless crimes and prohibitions. No-knock raids, carried out by heavily armed SWAT teams, have become the norm in most large cities and even some smaller ones throughout the United States, as a result. Mistakes, or even intentional acts of malfeasance, have led to an exponential growth in deaths of non-violent offenders, most of whom don’t actually harm anyone except maybe themselves, and even innocent people caught up in the deadly cross fire.

The even bigger reality is that forfeiture laws themselves are an abuse of the legal system and an affront to basic civil rights . In theory, they allow law enforcement to eliminate illegally earned assets that have been laundered and to hurt criminal enterprises’ ability to fund their operations. In practice, very tenuous links to criminal activity have been used to seize money from people with very little to no due process involved. If you set out with the express purpose of creating a police state it would be difficult to find a better method to bring that to fruition.

Completely innocent people, who happened to be in possession of what police consider to be unusually large amounts of cash, have essentially been victims of highway robbery, even when they’ve had perfectly reasonable justifications for having it and despite the fact that shouldn’t even be a requirement. Other people have had property, such as real estate or transportation equipment (i.e. planes, trains, and automobiles), stolen from them even though they were just renting it to someone else and had no actual control over or knowledge of its specific use.

Forfeiture AbusePretty central to those two abuses has been the lack of a requirement for a conviction (or even charges in most instances) for seizures to be upheld, as well as the reversal of the normal judicial roles. In civil forfeiture cases, the accused has the burden of proving their innocence and that burden is often very high and prohibitively expensive. That’s especially true since the one they are required to prove that to many times is also dependent on the ill gotten gains generated by seizure profits.

Montana’s version of seizure reform addresses some of those issues by making it a requirement for targets of asset forfeiture to be convicted of a crime before their property can be taken. It also forces prosecutors to prove that third party owners were involved in the criminal acts where their property was used, in order for it to be seized.

New Mexico went one better and took the purse strings out of the hands of local law enforcement altogether. As Montana’s did, the new law makes seizures contingent upon a criminal conviction. However, even in the event of that, funds generated by forfeiture go into a “general fund,” rather than directly to a defacto slush fund for police departments making those seizures. Not allowing law enforcement entities to fund themselves through asset seizures obviously removes some of the incentives for them to look for opportunities to bring that proverbial hammer down.

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Like most reformist measures, both of these represent a step in the right direction, but not a complete solution. Requirements for convictions and due process within forfeiture procedure can go a long way toward preventing the outright stealing of assets. However, Montana still allows police to directly profit off seized funds. While there’s more protection after the fact, the temptation to risk “breaking a few eggs” in order to make that golden omelet remains.

Also, while the general fund in New Mexico doesn’t directly finance police departments, their budgets are included within it. Therefore, the amount that is sent their way can be shifted in relation to the revenue generated by forfeiture to ensure they get their “cut” by politicians wishing to curry law enforcement’s favor and/or wishing to pump their own budgets up. Loopholes are not hard to find and they rarely take long to be exploited by people whose jobs largely consist of doing exactly that.

Beyond those issues, the real and most dire problem is that once an innocent person is killed or a baby’s face is permanently disfigured in a money driven paramilitary raid, that bell just can’t be unrung. A truer solution would be to abolish both civil asset seizure and the War on (Some) Drugs that spawned its abusive crime spree in the first place, altogether.

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