Sunday, May 17

"FEAR" and Civil Asset Forfeiture in the United States

"Findings suggest asset forfeiture is a dysfunctional policy. Forfeiture programs, while serving to generate income, prompt drug enforcement to serve functions that are inherently contradictory and often at odds with the demands of justice."--Mitchell Miller & Lance H. Selva, Drug Enforcement's Double Edged Sword: An Assessment of Asset Forfeiture Programs (Twelve month empirical examination of the implementation
of laws from within the forfeiture program)

Here's a wager for you: FOX News Network has never reported on the rampant confiscation of property of Americans never charged with a crime.

In April 2000, Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR), a California-based educational and public advocacy 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was instrumental in partially rectifying the rampant but legal confiscation of property by championing the nation's first federal legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture abuses by law enforcement officials around the U.S.

According to a 1994 report by PBS drug war correspondent Kyla Dunn on abuses in federal asset forfeiture
According to a report prepared for the Senate Judiciary Committee, at least 90 percent of the property that the federal government seeks to forfeit is pursued through civil asset forfeiture. And although forfeiture is intended as punishment for illegal activity, over 80% of the people whose property is seized under civil law are never even charged with a crime according to one study of over 500 federal cases by the Pittsburgh Press. For this reason, critics say, the system can run roughshod over the rights of innocent property owners--and fail to distinguish them from the guilty.
The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA) simply reaffirmed basic constitutional rights we wrongly assumed existed for those innocent of any crime. CAFRA required the federal government
Apparently after passage of CARFA, states, county and city law enforcement agencies have taken the pace of federal agencies by ratcheting up passage of local asset forfeiture laws. The catch? Local law enforcement must rake a percentage from the top to pass along to the feds.

Amtrak Snitches on Americans

To circumvent CARFA's commonsense provisions, the feds also sought our some unusual
recruits to enlist int he "war on drugs." For example, the cash-strapped and underfunded public train system Amtrak have signed up with the DEA for 10% "revenue sharing."

The 24 June 2001 issue of the St. Petersburg Times (FL) reported this story:
Amtrak, the financially struggling national passenger rail system, has found a new way to generate revenue: by snitching.

In return for sharing its passenger manifest with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Amtrak gets a bounty of 10 percent of any seizures made from its trains. DEA agents use the information provided by the railroad to determine which passengers fit a "drug courier profile." Riders unlucky enough to have paid for their tickets with cash or purchased tickets at the last minute are questioned by federal agents who board the train at the Albuquerque, New Mexico stop. If one of these travelers is carrying a substantial amount of cash, DEA agents confiscate it as a drug asset and Amtrak takes 10 percent off the top.

The abuses of civil forfeiture -- in which police agencies profit by confiscating money and property in the name of drug control -- are so widely known even a Republican-controlled Congress felt the need to address some of them, last year passing the Civil Forfeiture Reform Act. But those changes came too late for On Hoang Thach, a Vietnamese immigrant with limited English who had $148,000 taken from him by federal agents as he was traveling from California to his home in Boston. According to his attorney, Penni Adrian of Albuquerque, Thach, 26, was singled out for questioning in February 2000 because he had a minority-sounding name, had paid for his one-way ticket with cash and didn't give a call-back number at the time of the reservation.

During the stop in Albuquerque, Thach was approached in his roomette by federal agents. The DEA says Thach gave an agent permission to search the fanny pack he was carrying. But attorney Adrian said Thach didn't understand what was happening.

After the $149,000 was found in the fanny pack, which Thach claimed was gambling proceeds, the bills were taken outside to a drug-sniffing dog. But the dog did not alert to the presence of drugs. So the agents tried again with a second dog. It finally provided the desired result. (Despite studies that show upward of 96 percent of all money in circulation is contaminated with drug residue, police use drug-dog alerts as a basis to claim the money is part of the drug trade.) Thach was not charged with a crime, but he has had to post a $5,000 bond and hire an attorney to help him get his money back. The federal trial is set for October.

Certainly it is unusual and suspicious for someone to be carrying that kind of cash, but there was no actual evidence of wrongdoing. Thach was carrying legal tender, that is before the agents relieved him of it. And no doubt Amtrak got its piece.

Updated 2007 FEAR notices

The organization updated its 2007 bulletin list in October 2008. Check out the listing below and see what law enforcement out in your neck of the woods are up to on asset forfeiture.

Indexed 2006 archive of FEAR-List Bulletins with full texts from linked articles follow the 2007 list.

January 2007 FEAR-List bulletins plus the following full text articles:

Sarisota Herald-Tribune:

Bradenton police plan to spend disputed cash
Officials want to buy guns and gear with the disputed money.
The Baltimore Sun:
Prosecutors Seek Severance Paid Former Md. Insurance Fund Chief
San Francisco Chronicle:
RICHMOND: Court setback for car confiscations

February 2007 FEAR-List bulletins plus the following full text articles:

Missoula Independent:
Proving a negative
Gov't seeks forfeiture of 60% of nine Lucio Tan companies
Pretoria News, South Africa:
ax man cleared of graft charges
Montana Legislature Drafts Forfeiture Reform Bill
DEA News Release:
Over $18 Million In Forfeited Drug Proceeds Distributed To Federal,
State And Local Law Enforcement In New York In 2006

Sarisota Herald-Tribune:
Judge casts doubt on police forfeiture program
Sarisota Herald-Tribune:
Seizures are suspect
Ruling should cause Bradenton police to halt waiver policy
Bradenton PD backs confiscation policy
Department to keep suspect's property regardless of charge

March 2007, FEAR-List bulletins, plus the following full text articles:

Sarisota Herald-Tribune, FL:
Forfeiture Contracts Still Being Used
"Contraband Confiscation Agreement" circumstances ruled unconstitutional violation of due process: judge orders Bradenton police to return $10,200 or use court system to file forfeiture proceedings.
Bradenton Police Department continues policy of bypassing court system by coercing victims into signing forfeiture contract waiving right to day in court.
Gulf Times - Doha,Qatar:
Asset forfeiture effective way to fight global crime

ABC News:
Report Says FBI Violated Patriot Act Guidelines

Muskogee Daily Phoenix editorial:
Vehicle forfeiture sounds like unusual punishment

Las Cruces Sun-News - Las Cruces, NM:
Fewer vehicle seizures a sign anti-DWI program is working

Int'l forfeiture: Belgrade:
Assets forfeiture conference

Times Record News - Wichita Falls,TX
"The Corporation" leader Jose Miguel Battle, Jr. sentenced

Associated Press:
Senate Limits Gonzales' Hiring Authority

Associated Press:
Lawmakers Warn FBI It Could Lose Broad Spying Power Following Revelations of Abuses

Anderson Herald Bulletin - Anderson, IN:
The attorney representing the state in the John L. Neal civil case could end up reaping a windfall — if he’s ultimately successful.

Yakima Herald-Republic, WA:
Toddler denied cash, but may get car in drug forfeiture case

April 2007, FEAR-List bulletins plus the following associated articles:

Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, Waterloo, IA
Feds file forfeiture action for doctor's house

, AP:

Lay's Widow Challenges Civil Forfeiture

Muskogee Daily Phoenix - Muskogee,OK
Missing money investigation continues

Detroit Free Press - Detroit,MI,USA
Puertas exhausts appeals, heads to prison

Bendigo Advertiser - Bendigo,Victoria,Australia:
Regretful hoon to keep his vehicle - Washington,USA
South Africa: Seizing the Sense Behind the Law

Justice Policy Journal features a 31 page treatise by Jared Shoemaker titled:
Civil Asset Forfeiture: Why Law Enforcement Has Changed its Motto from "To Serve and Protect" to "Show Me the Money"
by Jared Shoemaker

The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, IN :
EDITORIAL: Don't make the wrong decision

Houston Chronicle, TX:
Linda Lay files against forfeiture

Denver Post - CO
Joe Nacchio's reversal of fortune

Boston Globe:
City police lavished $2.6m on leased cars

May 2007, FEAR-List bulletins plus the following associated articles:

The Province, Vancover, Canada:
More grow-op homes now facing forfeiture
New Mexico Court of appeals rules that police cannot use federal courts to bypass state forfeiture reforms

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, May 04, 2007:
US v. $487,825.00 in US Currency, No. 06-3138
US Government Forces E-gold Redemptions - Seizes Gold

Victory in the House, more work needed in Senate: Call your Senator today to oppose FISA Modernization Bill!
NC: Cal. residents win venue change to California from North Carolina

U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, May 18, 2007:
US v. Bank of New York

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, May 22, 2007:
State of Texas v. Soileau, No. 05-20501

June 2007, FEAR-List bulletins plus the following associated articles:

U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, June 2, 2007:
Money damages under 41(g): Peloro v. US, No. 04-4334

California Court of Appeals, June 10, 2007:
CA reversal of forfeiture judgment: People v. $20,110 U.S. Currency, No. B191821

New York Law Journal:
Forfeiture of Wife's Share of Home Over Husband's Marijuana Is Found Excessive

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 29, 2007:
Anciliary proceedings & unsecured property: US v.Corpus, No. 06-20619

U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 29, 2007:
Failure to put forfeiture order in final judgment= clerical error(???): US v. Koch, No. 05-4263

July 2007, FEAR-List bulletins plus the following associated articles:
Second Circuit Orders Government to Honor Settlement Agreement
DEA threatens 150 Los Angeles landlords with forfeiture and prison

San Francisco Chronicle:
OAKLAND - Seizure lawsuit settled

Los Angeles Times Editorial:
New challenges for medical marijuana
The Drug Enforcement Administration goes after landlords who rent to dispensaries.

Fox40 News:
CALIFORNIA: Court Rules Car Seizures Illegal

August 2007, FEAR-List bulletins plus the following associated articles:

US Department of Justice:
Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) & Asset Forfeiture Program National Leadership Conference

American Statesman:
Texas: Investigation launched into police's seized funds

New York Law Review:
2nd Circuit Upholds Denial of Fees in Forfeiture Suit Involving Couriers
2nd Circuit denies fees for attorneys who recovered money seized from multiple innocent claimants under USA PATRIOT Act

The Florida Times-Unioin:
Official won't sign Camden sheriff's drug money report--Commissioner wants to know how sheriff spent seized drug money
10th Circuit rules “substitute assets” are not subject to pre-trial restraint: Government may not use lis pendens statute for pre-trial restraint of property that neither comprises the fruits of, nor is connected to, the defendant’s alleged crime.

September 2007, FEAR-List bulletins plus the following associated articles:

U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals:
US v. Fleet, No. 06-12454
Federal Criminal forfeiture statute preempts the homestead exemption contained in the Florida Constitution and the state's
tenancy by the entireties law

U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals:
US v. Capoccia, No. 06-0669
Very thoughtful decision on the required nexus between the crime of conviction and the conduct of conviction

Athens NEWS - Ohio:
Village opposes county prosecutor's interference in drug money forfeiture
No money to fix jail, but Dallas Sheriff says she can afford new SWAT team - Philippines:
Puno: Estrada could get to keep P1B of ill-gotten assets

Drug War Chronicle - Washington, DC:
Asset Forfeiture in Drug Cases is Hurting Investment in the Inner Cities

October 2007, FEAR bulletins with associated articles:

Hartford Advocate:
Drug Money? Welcome to the world of civil asset forfeiture: enriching police at your expense
Court rules sailboat formerly owned by the late President J. F. Kennedy is not subject to forfeiture:
Government had no right to sell the sloop, nor does it have any right to pocket proceeds from that sale.

November 2007, FEAR-list bulletins plus the following associated articles:

San Francisco Chronicle:
Court tells cops: Return medical marijuana if drug charges dropped
Former U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde rests in peace

New York Court of Appeals, November 19, 2007 :
Property Clerk of the Police Dep't of the City of New York v. Harris, No.No. 138

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 19, 2007:
Bailey v. US, No.07-40309

December 2007 FEAR-list bulletins plus the following associated articles:

The Press - Christchurch, New Zealand:
Drug-ring leader forfeits home
Former U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde rests in peace

Georgia Straight - Vancouver,British Columbia,Canada:
House seizures a double-edged weapon in the fight against organized crime

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 19, 2007:
Bailey v. US, No.07-40309

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 21, 2007:
US v. Plunk, No.06-35269

INTERNET LAW - US Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act 2007

District Court Virginia:
Court-Appointed Special Master Recommends Best Friends Animal Society
for Placement of 22 American Pit Bull Terriers from Vick Civil Forfeiture Action

Star Tribune, Minneapolis:
U.S. can't tie client to drugs, attorney says
Steve Meshbesher dared the feds to file a criminal charge against a man arrested with cash allegedly tainted by cocaine.

Courier and Journal, Tippecanoe, Indiana:
Law officers put seized assets to work for them

Star-Tribune, Casper, Wyoming:
Drug money duel

Tippecanoe Editorial:
Pursue asset forfeiture, but guard rights

Washington Continent:
Conyers concerned about DEA threats to private landlords
FEAR's exciting new Continuing Legal Education (CLE) project

Rep. John Conyers:
Setting the Record Straight on FISA


January-February 2006 FEAR-List bulletins
plus full text of linked articles
We're presently indexing FEAR-List bulletins posted in 2006, please check back soon for additional months

Earlier FEAR-bulletin archives:

Prior Index to our archive of FEAR-List bulletins (may contain links to articles that are no longer available)

If you would like to volunteer to help index bulletins from prior years, please contact Judy Osburn.

2004 -
January February March

2003 - Partially indexed

Selected bulletins from FEAR-List 1998

Archive of Early FEAR-List Bulletins -- 1994 - 1996

Selected bulletins from FEAR-List 1998

Archive of Early FEAR-List Bulletins -- 1994 - 1996

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