Articles Tagged with Washington

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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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Three and a half years ago, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendment Act of 2014. It was designed to protect citizens and give greater transparency to the process of civil forfeitures. Despite being mandated to publish annual reports of forfeitures in the district, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has so far failed to do so. As a result, it is impossible to see whether the reforms have had their desired effect.

On Nov. 18, 2014, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the reforms which, at the time, were touted as “a model for the states.” Key changes to civil asset forfeiture procedures included a new presumption that property owners were innocent and that the burden of proof for seizure lay with the government and not the individual. Additionally, cash amounts below $1,000 were no longer forfeitable.
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