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Articles Tagged with policing for profit

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drugs-2793133_1920-300x200In 2016, Ambioris Cruz was in a Nissan Murano SUV together with Jose Veloz in Reading, Pennsylvania. With them in the car were $5,000 in cash and several bags of drugs. They were waiting for one of their associates to show. They were waiting to make a drug deal.

What Cruz and Veloz didn’t know was that the police had turned their associate against them. Law enforcement officers were observing from a distance. When the time was right, the police rushed in. They arrested the pair and seized the SUV, cash, and drugs.
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highway-828985_1920-300x200Between 2016 and 2017, police officers in Phelps County, Missouri seized over $2.5 million during traffic stops along a 20-mile stretch of I-44. Law enforcement did not file any criminal charges for those seizures.

The property was taken using a legal procedure known as civil asset forfeiture. This controversial procedure allows law enforcement to seize an individual’s property if said property is suspected of being involved in a crime.

In criminal procedures, proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” is required to gain a conviction. As civil asset forfeiture is a civil and not a criminal process, the standard of proof required to permanently take property is usually lower. In Missouri, all that is required is “a preponderance of the evidence.”
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philadelphia-1740685_1920-300x241On March 23, 2016, police arrested Christopher “Bmore” Hawkins, age 46, of Spring Garden Township, Pennsylvania on drug charges. Hawkins was caught attempting to sell heroin to two informants. As part of his plea bargain, Hawkins pleaded guilty to several charges, including “possession with intent to deliver heroin” in order to receive a prison sentence between four and eight years.

During a search of his house, law enforcement officials seized several items. These included televisions, a 1996 Dodge Neon, and a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK. Police were able to take possession of Hawkins’ property using a procedure known as civil asset forfeiture, which gives police the power to seize a person’s property or assets if said property and assets are suspected of being involved in a crime.
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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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