Articles Tagged with ACLU

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auto-automobile-blur-532001-300x200In just five months in 2016, police in New Jersey seized over $5.5 million in cash and property from individuals using civil asset forfeiture. This is according to a report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. The report also found that there is almost no oversight on civil forfeiture in the state.

The seizures included houses, electronics, clothes, a massage table, and baseball cards, not to mention the hundreds of vehicles also taken. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process where law enforcement is allowed to take the property of citizens if that property is suspected of being involved in a crime, and in most states, a criminal conviction is not required for property to be taken.
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On June 9, Dimitrios Patlias was driving through West Virginia on his way to Jefferson County’s Hollywood Casino. Traveling with him was his wife, Tonya Smith, who at the time was eight months pregnant. They were pulled over by a highway patrol officer who said Dimitrios had failed to stay in his lane.

The officer accused them of smuggling cigarettes or even of having drugs in the car. When he found cash worth $10,478 in the vehicle together with 78 rewards and gift cards, the officer accused them of gift card fraud. However, the officer found no evidence of wrongdoing. He issued Dimitrios a warning and let them go. Despite this, the officer took their cash, gift cards, and Dimitrios’ phone. Dimitrios and Tonya returned home to Egg Harbor, New Jersey with only $2. They had not been charged with any crime.

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Josh Gingerich of Yuba City in northern California buys and flips trucks for a living. On a buying trip in February, the DEA stopped Josh at the airport and confiscated the $29,000 in cash he was carrying. Josh was not arrested, nor did he commit any crime. Despite this, the DEA is refusing to give his money back.

Law enforcement was able to take Josh’s money using a process called civil asset forfeiture. This is a legal procedure where property or cash can be seized if it has been suspected of involvement in a crime. As it is a civil and not a legal procedure, in most states property owners do not need to be charged with a crime before their property may be taken.
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In 2016, police in New Hampshire stopped a car for speeding and tailgating. They seized the $46,000 in cash they discovered inside. More than 18 months after it was taken, a man claiming to be the rightful owner of the money is petitioning to have it returned to him.

On October 3, 2016, state troopers pulled over a red Hyundai registered in Massachusetts. The police report stated that the driver, Alexander Temple, had shaking hands and looked nervous. Temple gave permission for the trooper to examine his car. In the trunk, the officer found the $46,000 in 20-dollar bills neatly wrapped up inside a Whole Foods bag.
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On paper, Missouri’s civil asset forfeiture laws are better than most. State law requires all proceeds from property and cash seizures be used to fund public schools in the state. However, law enforcement is using a loophole to keep the vast majority of the proceeds for themselves.

Since 2015, Missouri law enforcement seized property and cash valued at $19 million. Of that total, less than 2 percent—only $340,000—found its way to schools.
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