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Articles Tagged with supreme court

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alabama-1611179_1920-300x287After the Supreme Court ruled last month that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment applied to states—essentially outlawing excessive police seizures—lawmakers in Alabama are moving forward with reforms of civil asset forfeiture in the state.

Civil asset forfeiture is the legal process where police can seize an individual’s property, cash, or any other assets if they are suspected of being used in a crime. In Alabama there are no requirements for law enforcement to report seizures, so the scale of civil asset forfeitures in the state is hard to assess. Additionally, in order to take an individual’s assets, law enforcement only needs to demonstrate the property’s involvement in a crime to the court’s “reasonable satisfaction.” This is a far lower bar than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is required in criminal cases.
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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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supreme-court-546279_1920-300x195On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case which could transform civil asset forfeiture in America. Groups from across the political spectrum presented briefs opposing civil asset forfeiture, asserting that civil forfeiture hurts business and is an affront to civil liberties.

Earlier this year, I reported on the case of Tyson Timbs. In 2013, he was arrested for selling four grams of heroin to an undercover police officer in Indiana. He was sentenced to five years of probation and a year of home arrest. Additionally, he paid legal fees in excess of $1,200 and attended a court-supervised drug treatment program.
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action-business-container-1267338-300x200The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has proposed a 13.4 percent reduction in workers’ compensation insurance rates for employers in Florida. The proposal will be reviewed on October 17 by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). If approved, this reduction—which would come into effect on January 1, 2019—would be the third such reduction in rates since 2016.

“Constant improvement in loss experience is the primary driver underlying the filing,” explained the NCCI in a statement. The 13.4 percent reduction reflects a downward trend nationwide. According to the report, “the long-term decline in claim frequency has continued to more than offset moderate increases in claim severity.”
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blur-cannabis-close-up-606506-300x200Ten years ago, the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET) raided Steven Fager’s property in Discovery Bay, Washington. They found 10 pounds of processed marijuana and 275 marijuana plants. Steven and his brother, Timothy, were charged with possession of drugs with the intent to deliver. They were also charged with defrauding the Jefferson County Public Utility District by diverting power for their own uses.

At the same time as they filed criminal charges, law enforcement attempted to use civil asset forfeiture to take Steven’s property. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal procedure where law enforcement can take an individual’s property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, it is not necessary for the property owner to be convicted of a crime—or even charged with one. Additionally, in Washington state, it is the owners who bear the onus of demonstrating the innocence of their property to be able to get it back.
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