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Articles Tagged with reform

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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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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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money-1428594_1920-300x200In February 2018, a housekeeper in a hotel in St. Matthews, Kentucky found $193,049 hidden away in room 403. The hotel’s management called local law enforcement, who suspected the cash was linked to drugs.

The St. Matthews Police Department filed a civil lawsuit against the man who had rented the room. His co-defendant in the case was the $193,049. A judge ordered that the police department could keep 85 percent of the cash while the remaining 15 percent would go to the prosecutor’s office. The man who rented the room was not charged with any crime.
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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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