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Articles Tagged with law enforcement

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pexels-photo-1719490-300x200A Pennsylvania family has filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) after the agency seized $82,373 in cash at Pittsburgh airport because it considers large amounts of cash to be “suspicious.”

The money, which was stored in a Tupperware container, was Terrence Rolin’s life savings. The 79-year-old retired railroad engineer was worried about keeping so much cash on hand, so he asked his daughter, Rebecca Brown, to open a joint bank account and deposit the money.

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flag-1544223_1920-300x219In 2017, law enforcement across Texas seized more than $50 million in property, cash, and other assets from private citizens. They were able to do so by claiming these assets were linked to crime. While some of these seizures were taken using criminal forfeiture—that is, as part of cases where an individual was found guilty of a crime—others were taken using civil forfeiture. No criminal charges are required for civil asset forfeiture.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office makes no distinction in its records between civil and criminal forfeiture, so it is unknown how much property was taken from individuals not charged with a crime. Attempts by state legislators to force law enforcement to improve their reporting have repeatedly failed.
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Last year, police in Utah seized over $2.5 million in cash and property using civil asset forfeiture. This is a sharp increase on the $1.4 million seized in 2016, fueling concerns that property may be taken from innocent people.

Civil asset forfeiture is a system which allows law enforcement to seize property suspected of being connected to a crime. Before the property can be seized permanently, law enforcement in Utah is required to show clear, convincing evidence that it was linked to a crime. However, this requirement falls below the standard followed in criminal cases: that it must be proved “beyond reasonable doubt.” No criminal charges are needed for police to take property.
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In September 2015, Jean Carlos Herrera was driving his 16-year-old SUV from New York to Los Angeles when law enforcement in Iowa pulled him over. The police did not charge Jean Carlos with any crime. Nonetheless, they seized both his car and the $45,000 in cash they found inside.

When he was pulled over in Pottawattamie County, Jean Carlos refused to allow the police officer to search his vehicle. Despite this, the officer nonetheless examined his car, claiming there were inconsistencies between the story Herrera and his passenger told about why there were traveling across the country. According to a court record, a police dog also examined the car and detected narcotics. No drugs were found in the car.
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In August 2017, $13,740 was stolen from a man in a gas station in Ohio. Although the culprit was caught, the Portage County Drug Task Force held onto the victim’s money, arguing it was subject to civil asset forfeiture. Last Friday, Judge Becky Doherty ordered the money finally be returned to the victim.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process where law enforcement can seize money or property suspected of being involved in criminal activity. In most states, law enforcement can seize property even if its owner has not been charged with a crime. Since proceeds from forfeiture are often used by law enforcement, this has led to accusations of “policing for profit” from groups such as the libertarian Institute for Justice. Continue reading

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