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Articles Tagged with policing for profit

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supreme-court-546279_1920-300x195In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Constitution bars the use of “excessive fines” by states. This decision has the potential to dramatically change the way civil asset forfeiture is used by law enforcement agencies across the country.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process wherein law enforcement may take an individual’s property, cash, vehicle, or any other asset if that asset is suspected of being used in a crime. In most states, it is relatively simple for police to take an individual’s property but hard for innocent owners to get their property back.
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squad-car-1209719_1920-300x162Last week, I reported on the state of civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina—that between 2014-16, law enforcement agencies seized property and cash worth at least $17 million with little oversight on how those assets were taken or used.

With 95 percent of the proceeds from civil asset forfeitures going to fund law enforcement, it is clear there are incentives for police in South Carolina to carry out civil forfeitures. This is known to critics of civil asset forfeiture as “policing for profit.” Last week, I reported on gatherings where officers could earn prizes for having the most property seizures.
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u-1604153_1920-300x228When Isiah Kinloch of North Charleston in South Carolina was recovering in hospital from a head injury he sustained while fending off a robber, law enforcement searched his apartment. The found $1,800 in cash and an ounce of cannabis. By the time Kinloch was released, police had taken his cash.

Law enforcement charged Kinloch with “Possession with Intent to Distribute.” Kinloch said the cash came from his job as a tattoo artist and that he was using marijuana to help him with the pain he suffered after a car accident. The police eventually dropped all charges against Kinloch, but they never returned his money.
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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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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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