Tuesday, February 2, 2010

OK, a political thing

Going through court records for idictments a few years ago, I came across "The State of Texas vs. 1979 Chevrolet Pickup." That sounded interesting. I wondered what the pickup had done to bring down the wrath of the State of Texas. Well, the pickup hadn't done anything of its own free will, but its owner was accused of using said vehicle to transport and otherwise distribute illegal substances; i.e., marijuana and methamphetamine.

The charges were not all that unusual, and still aren't. City, county, state and federal law agencies file thousands of similar cases every year, seizing property of those accused of crimes. Note the word accused. The agencies involved need not secure conviction in order to take possession and sell seized property. But that's unconstitutional. So sue. Most people don't.

“Less than 20 percent of federal seizures involved property whose owners were ever prosecuted. … More than 80 percent of federal seizures are never challenged in court. … In many cases the property was worth less than the legal costs of trying to get it back. … Forfeiture defendants can’t be provided with a court-appointed attorney. …”


There was a recent case in which an agency seized a substantial amount of cash following a traffic stop. The owner of the money was not charged with anything. Prosecutors based the seizure on the contention that the owner intended to buy drugs with the money.

Sometimes it is a Brave New World.

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