Horry County Judge Steven H. John declared that the South Carolina’s forfeiture laws violate constitutional protections against excessive fines by allowing the government to seize amounts of cash and property disproportionate to the alleged crime.
In May 2016, Braden Carlisle was traveling with friends from Charlotte, South Carolina to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. Carlisle was pulled over by police, who arrested him and seized the $6,600 in cash that was in the car with them.
“It scared the heck out of me,” said Carlisle. “I was like, this is insane. This is insane. This is worse than the stuff you see on the movies.”
Last 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.
When 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.
Dan Johnson, a Fifth Circuit Solicitor in South Carolina, is under investigation by the FBI after an investigation into questionable use of funds from civil asset forfeiture funds.
Johnson’s spending records were recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog organization, Public Access to Public Records (PAPR). They show that on April 14, 2017, Johnson moved $10,000 from a fund containing the proceeds from civil asset forfeiture to a credit card which he used to pay for travel in South America. Continue reading