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Articles Tagged with Civil Asset Forfeiture

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travel-778338_1920-300x200In February 2017, Ashley Tami Renee Phillips was stopped at Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Jackson, Mississippi by a Transport Security Administration officer. The TSA had discovered Phillips was carrying $30,000 in cash in her checked luggage. He seized the cash.

Law enforcement attempted to take her cash using civil asset forfeiture. This is the procedure where police may take an individual’s money or property if they suspect it is involved in a crime. In Phillips’ case, the Jackson Airport Police Department brought in their drug dog to test the cash. When the dog detected narcotics on the money, the police had found their justification to take the cash. This is despite a study demonstrating that more than 75 percent of currency in the U.S. has cocaine residue on it.
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silverado-2629366_1920-300x200Even though he was acquitted of the criminal charge leveled against him, Aaron Dorn still lost his truck to a process known as civil asset forfeiture. Inspired by Aaron’s case, a North Dakota state representative is introducing a bill to reform civil forfeiture in the state.

Last summer, I reported on Dorn’s situation. In the fall of 2016, he had traveled from his home in New York state to join the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Aaron was arrested by a police officer who claimed Dorn had attempted to ram the officer’s police car with his 2003 Chevrolet Silverado.
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philadelphia-224464_1920-300x200If anyone knows how unjust civil asset forfeiture can be, it’s Philadelphia resident Norys Hernandez. Law enforcement attempted to seize the house she owned with her sister even though she had done nothing wrong. The authorities attempted to take her home after her nephew was arrested for dealing drugs on the property.

It took years, but Norys eventually got her house back. She was part of a class-action lawsuit that was settled for $3 million last year.

Civil asset forfeiture is the legal process where police may take someone’s property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. A criminal conviction is not required in most states. In fact, of the four plaintiffs named in the class-action lawsuit who had their houses seized, none were accused of having committed a crime. In three cases, the houses were seized because a relative had been caught selling drugs in the house.
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maine-551993_1920-300x225Law enforcement agencies in Maine may be breaking the law by failing to report property and cash taken during civil asset forfeitures. These agencies are also required to deposit the proceeds of forfeitures in the state’s general fund, but instead are keeping almost all of it for themselves, sources allege.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process where police can take an individual’s assets if they are suspected of being used in a crime. In most states, a criminal conviction is not necessary for property to be taken. In Maine, while the Office of the Attorney General is required to show that seized property was actually connected to a crime, the required standard of proof is low. In a criminal case, for a conviction, the evidence must be “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, such as civil asset forfeiture, however, the standard of proof is much lower, a simple “preponderance of the evidence” is all that is required.
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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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