Monday, September 15, 2014

Link of the Week

“There's only two people in your life you should lie to... the police and your girlfriend.”  - Jack Nicholson

This link of the week is about the abhorrent practice of police confiscating money and valuables under the umbrella of civil forfeiture. To summarize, civil forfeiture is essentially when law enforcement accuses the valuables or the property with being party to a crime, but not the owner. The original idea behind it was supposedly to attack the economic assets of organized crime and drug smuggling operations, but in some areas the local police departments are abusing the practice by targeting innocents where there is no reason to suspect a crime. Many cases it’s as simple as “you’re driving around with several thousand dollars and that fits the pattern of being proceeds from drug activity, so we’re confiscating it”. Often they try to intimidate the victim into thinking if they don’t consent, they’ll end up in jail. Isn’t that scary as hell? One can try to get it returned in court, but that can potentially take years and that’s only if you haven’t already been intimidated into signing a waiver when the cash or property was taken. Why would some police do this? Well turns out their departments get to keep a chunk of it. Yeah, no conflict of interest there…..

"On its official website, the Canadian government informs its citizens that “there is no limit to the amount of money that you may legally take into or out of the United States.” Nonetheless, it adds, banking in the U.S. can be difficult for non-residents, so Canadians shouldn’t carry large amounts of cash.

That last bit is excellent advice, but for an entirely different reason than the one Ottawa cites.

There’s a shakedown going on in the U.S., and the perps are in uniform.

Across America, law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public’s cash as they can; “hand over fist,” to use the words of one police trainer.

Roadside seizure

It usually starts on the road somewhere. An officer pulls you over for some minor infraction — changing lanes without proper signalling, following the car ahead too closely, straddling lanes. The offence is irrelevant.
Then the police officer wants to chat, asking questions about where you’re going, or where you came from, and why. He’ll peer into your car, then perhaps ask permission to search it, citing the need for vigilance against terrorist weaponry or drugs.

What he’s really looking for, though, is money.

'Authorities claim it’s legal, but some prosecutors and judges have called it what it is: abuse. In any case, it’s a nasty American reality.'

And if you were foolish (or intimidated) enough to have consented to the search, and you’re carrying any significant amount of cash, you are now likely to lose it.

The officer will probably produce a waiver, saying that if you just sign over the money then the whole matter will just disappear, and you’ll be able to go on your way.

Refuse to sign it, and he may take the cash anyway, proclaiming it the probable proceeds of drugs or some other crime.

Either way, you almost certainly won’t be charged with anything; the objective is to take your money, not burden the system.

You’ll have the right to seek its return in court, but of course that will mean big lawyer’s fees, and legally documenting exactly where the money came from. You will need to prove you are not a drug dealer or a terrorist.

It might take a year or two. And several trips back to the jurisdiction where you were pulled over. Sorry.
In places like Tijuana, police don’t make any pretense about this sort of thing. Here in the U.S., though, it’s dressed up in terms like “interdiction and forfeiture,” or “the equitable sharing program.”

Authorities claim it’s legal, but some prosecutors and judges have called it what it is: abuse.
In any case, it’s a nasty American reality."

Link to Full Story Here

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