Tag Archives: Supreme Court

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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Update: Investigation Opened Into Misconduct and Fraud by Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Bryan Jeffers of South East Missouri (SEMO) CopBlock, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. It is an update of a previous submission about potential misconduct and fraud by Sheriff Dean Finch of Wayne County, Missouri. This post was originally published at the website of SEMO CopBlock under the title, “Did Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch violate the Hatch Act?

In addition, Bryan stated:

This Email was sent to me right before I shared this story.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file and started an investigation into Sheriff Dean Finch’s misconduct. It would be great if Dean is charged and convicted of breaking the Hatch Act. It may not land him in prison as we’d prefer, however, it will be justice, no matter how small the punishment may be.

dean-finch-hatch-act-investigation

Click for full size image.

Did Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch Violate the Hatch Act?

To understand if Dean Finch violated the Hatch Act we first have to understand what the Hatch Act is about. The Hatch Act of 1939 was named after Senator Carl Hatch a Democrat from New Mexico who wrote it. The Hatch Act is officially, an act to prevent pernicious political activities. The act was amended in 2012. As such, we will focus on the 2012 amended version.

In 2012 President Barack Obama signed the “Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012.” It modified penalties under the Hatch Act to allow for disciplinary actions in addition to removal for federal employees; clarified the applicability to the District of Columbia of provisions that cover state and local governments; limited the prohibition on state and local employees running for elective office to employees whose salary is paid completely by federal loans or grants. (The complete law can be found here.)

According to subsection 7324. Political activities on duty; prohibitions
Picture

PictureSEMO Cop Block obtained evidence of Dean Finch allegedly violating three of four prohibitions. In the picture provided, Dean Finch is seen at the Ozark Heritage Festival, campaigning in uniform with badge and belt present, with a county issued shirt on.

According to Subsection 7324, “An An employee may not engage in political activity, while the employee is on duty. As you can see from the picture provided the Sheriff is on duty, and in uniform.  Both of the accusations could be covered by Subsection 7324 A(1), and A(3).


In the festival’s parade, Dean Finch allegedly violated the Hatch Act early the same day by campaigning in a parade while he was driving the vehicle that he leases to the county, and is paid $0.54/mile when he drives it (read more here)
Did Dean add the mileage he drove during the parade to his mileage log he is paid from? According to the subsection 7324 – (4) it is prohibited “using any vehicle owned or leased by the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof.” Hence Dean drove his leased vehicle during a campaigning session by driving the county leased vehicle throughout the “Ozark Heritage Festival” with a sign the read “Wayne County sheriff Dean Finch” on both sides of the vehicle. Isn’t this a violation of the Hatch Act?
We at SEMO Cop Block believe so. Dean Finch should be charged, convicted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law. According to subsection 732:

Dean Finch should be subject to removal and not allowed to hold any elected office for a period not to exceed 5 years. A fine not to exceed $1,000.

SEMO Cop Block has not just written up this article, we have filed a complaint with The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). (You can read the complaint here) The OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Their basic authorities come from four federal statutes: the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The OSC would be the one in charge of investigating the Hatch Act complaints.

If you believe Dean Finch or anyone else has violated the Hatch Act, the OSC contact information is:

U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, NW
Suite 218
Washington, DC 20036
Hatch Act Hotline:           (202) 254-3650 or (800) 854-2824
Hatch Act Fax:                 (202) 254-3700
E-mail:                              [email protected]
Website:                          www.osc.gov

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file and started an investigation into Sheriff Dean Finch’s misconduct. It would be great if Dean is charged and convicted of breaking the Hatch Act. It may not land him in prison as we’d prefer, however, it will be justice no matter how small the punishment may be.

The ‘NATIONAL SHERIFFS’ ASSOCIATION” has been trying to change the law to not include sheriffs, but has failed in every attempt they’ve made. In a letter they wrote in 2012, they say:

“HB 498 would clarify current law to allow sheriffs, in their official capacity, to participate in political activities. Moreover, it also clarifies allowable political activities of a sheriff to include, but not limited to, endorsing a candidate through print, radio or TV ads, speaking at political events, attending or sponsoring fundraisers.” (full letter here)

The bill they asked for was referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and Labor Policy. The bill has never made it out of the subcommittee.

The Supreme Court has several times declined to hear challenges to the act and has twice upheld its constitutionality. In a 1947 case brought by the CIO, a divided court found that Congress had properly exercised its authority as long as it had not affected voting rights. Then again In 1973, in a case brought by the National Association of Letter Carriers. A 6 to 3 decision found the act is neither too broad nor unclear.
The Hatch Act is there to prevent people who are paid in part or completely by the Federal Government from campaigning in uniform or while on duty. The Supreme Court has ruled twice on its fairness and broadness. Congress did not vote or discuss the bill brought to them by the National Sheriffs’ Association.

– Bryan Jeffers
   SEMO CopBlock

 

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Las Vegas Cops Demand ID, Attempt to Intimidate, Then Issue Threat When Refused

The videos and description within this post were shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader from Las Vegas named Carter, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

The videos included with this post begin with a group of Animal Control officers attempting to get a Carter to provide them with his identity and allow them access to his dogs. The reason given to justify that is that they received a report of a kid being bit by a dog five days earlier. When Carter refuses to do so without them providing some sort of probable cause that the dogs involved were his, the Animal Control officers call the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for backup.

A pair of LVMPD officers arrive and also begin demanding ID from Carter, incorrectly telling him that he is required by law to tell them his identity. Instead, he cites the requirement for a legal detention, per the Supreme Court ruling in “Terry vs. Ohio,” that they have probable cause to believe he is either committing, is about to commit, or has committed a crime.

Of course, in Nevada you are not required to identify yourself to the police unless you have been legally detained or are under arrest. However, the police are in fact required to give their name and badge number and, in spite of that, every one of them refuse to do so when it is requested.

In the end, having realized that their attempts to intimidate Carter have very badly failed, the half dozen police and animal control officers walk back to their vehicles. In the process, one of the LVMPD gang members threatens Carter saying, “don’t let me catch you jaywalking” and “you better watch yourself.”

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If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Date of Incident: September 27, 2016
Department Involved: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Las Vegas City Marshals & Animal Control
LVMPD Phone No.: (702) 828-3111
Animal Control Phone No.: (702) 633-1390

Animal Control officers came to my house and asked for my name and to see my dogs because they had a report of a kid having been bitten five days earlier while riding a bike. I told her she had the wrong residence. She Continued to demand to look at my dogs and for me to tell her my name.

I still refused and then she called police from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. When officers from the LVMPD arrived they tried to further intimidate me in to giving them my identity. They continued with their efforts until I cited the requirements for a legal detention (and by extension an obligation to identify oneself in Nevada) under Terry vs. Ohio.

– Carter

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Federal Judge Richard Posner Sees No Value in Studying “Outdated” Constitution

According to Judge Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the “eighteenth-century guys” responsible for writing the Constitution could never have foreseen modern culture and technology.

Therefore, in his eyes, it’s just a waste of time for judges to study the Constitution and the history behind it, since it’s irrelevant to today.

Those comments came in an article as part of an ongoing series of articles entitled the “Supreme Court Breakfast Table,” which bills itself as, “An email conversation about the news of the day.” It’s hosted at Slate.com and features a discussion of issues relating to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justices.

Within that post on June 24th, Judge Posner stated:

I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation (across the centuries—well, just a little more than two centuries, and of course less for many of the amendments). Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today. David Strauss is right: The Supreme Court treats the Constitution like it is authorizing the court to create a common law of constitutional law, based on current concerns, not what those 18th-century guys were worrying about.

In short, let’s not let the dead bury the living.

Nor, according to Mediaite.com, is this the first time Judge Posner has expressed that he gives no fucks about the Constitution and its old-timey ways:

Posner, an influential jurist who has served as a federal judge for thirty-five years, has previously voiced his disregard for the Constitution. “I’m not particularly interested in the 18th Century, nor am I particularly interested in the text of the Constitution. I don’t believe that any document drafted in the 18th century can guide our behavior today,” he said during a 2015 colloquium.

Judge Richard Posner 7th CircuitThis is why the reliance on the courts and the Constitution itself for justice is an exercise in futility. Regardless of what the original founders meant when they wrote it, the people wearing those robes right now are the ones that interpret it now and guess who they work for.

I can give you this little hint if you need it. Whenever you end up in court it will be the same people that guy sitting at the other table works for. It will also be the same people those guys that escorted you into that courtroom work for.

Some of them, like Judge Posner, don’t even pretend to respect the protections the Constitution supposedly provide. Recent rulings essentially eliminating Fourth Amendment protections should be evidence enough that he’s not alone in that disdain.

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Supreme Court’s Curtailing of the Fourth Amendment is Admissible Evidence of Police State

Supreme Court Decision Fourth Amendment Cop Block

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Supreme Court Ruling is Admissible Evidence of Police State.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the Nevada Cop Block can be sent in to us via the NVCopBlock.org Submissions Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Kelly Vee’s own writings.)

In the post below, Kelly Vee discusses the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Utah v. Strieff which allowed the inclusion of evidence found during an illegal search to be admitted if it was subsequently found that a warrant existed for someone with the name of the person that had been illegally searched.

Although this has been (rightfully) decried as an invalidation of the Fourth Amendment, essentially encouraging police to profile and illegally detain people in the hopes that they will discover a warrant after the fact. Vee points out why such a decision should not actually be surprising, given the nature and true purpose of the court system.

Supreme Court Ruling is Admissible Evidence of Police State

On Monday, June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that evidence police find during illegal stops is admissible in court. As long as the officer can find some outstanding warrant in your name, the court will excuse the officer’s illegal stop. The Supreme Court’s decision would be disappointing if you expected the Supreme Court to do anything other than serve itself.

Monday’s ruling seems to contradict Mapp v. Ohio, or at least seriously expands the definition of a legal search. In Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the Supreme Court ruled that all evidence obtained through illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution was inadmissible in court. In her scathing dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

American schoolchildren are taught that the Supreme Court is the ultimate check on government power. When the other branches of government get out of hand, the Supreme Court – somehow free from perverse incentives and filled with good will – will step in for the common people. This fairytale designed to boost faith in government is overturned as the Supreme Court stands behind the prison state, yet again.

Should we be angry? Absolutely. Should we be shocked? Absolutely not. Americans should not feel reassured or secure by the final arbiter in the U.S. justice system. Americans are not safe from their government. The notion that the government will check its own power is misguided and naive. The Supreme Court is made up of former Solicitor Generals, Attorney Generals, and prosecutors. Regardless of lifetime tenure, their incentives are far from pure. Individuals appointed by and working for the government, with a lifetime of experience in service of the government, will often side with the government.

The scope of this ruling is not limited to some small subset of violent criminals. Millions of Americans have outstanding arrest warrants. That speeding ticket you forgot to pay is enough to excuse an officer that stops you illegally. Anything the officer finds is admissible in court, as long as they can find a valid (unrelated) warrant with your name on it. In a country where cops murder and get away with it, corruption charges rarely follow through, and the justice system runs rampant with racial (and other) discrimination, one of our few remaining defenses against police misconduct has just been whitewashed to the point of emptiness.

It’s not hard to imagine how this newfound police power will be abused. In the country that incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world, ahead of countries such as Turkmenistan, Cuba, and El Salvador, millions more wait to be thrown behind bars. The Supreme Court’s ruling expedites the process of putting people in cages by making it even easier for cops to search and arrest people without oversight. All it takes is an unpaid traffic ticket, and no probable cause is necessary for the police to search someone, using anything they find in court.

Police, rarely held accountable for misconduct, now have even less motivation to behave. Even if their stop is illegal and without cause, the evidence they find will work in their favor in court.

The Police State, the Prison State, and the Court System are all a part of the same twisted, monopolized justice system run with perverse incentives at the expense of its constituents. Police abuse their power, the Court affirms their mistakes, and people end up behind bars. Rather than express righteous shock at the recent Court’s decision, we should recognize the natural progression of the State and oppose it at its core. Power seeks power, but if more people understand the root of the problem, we can fight back.

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