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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Federal Laws Permit Local Govts & Fed Agencies to Seize Personal Property from those Uncharged with a Crime

Markela and Christos Sourovelis are among those suing Philadelphia, the District Attorney's Office, and the Police Department, seeking to close down the forfeiture unit, which they say is one of the nation's most aggressive.


A victim of crime may suffer the loss of property in two ways: by theft or when property is seized and held as evidence.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws outlining procedures for the return of stolen or personal property seized for evidentiary purposes in subsequent criminal proceedings.

In most states, property may be returned to its owner when it is no longer needed as evidence in a criminal prosecution. Since this often means the victim is deprived of his or her property for months or even years while the case is appealed or retried, some states have attempted to impose specific time requirements for the return of property.
A number of states have attempted to promote the prompt return of property needed as evidence by authorizing a photograph of the item to be serve as evidence.(Source)

Here we go again. Congressional oversight, the lack thereof, remains the thief in the night of law-abiding Americans. As a sidebar when living in Albany, NY  a policeman friend told me they (Albany Police) were instructed to only issue tickets to those who looked financially "able" to pay the fines. Our local police are but the agents of crooked political officeholders. 

One begins to understand why your state reps are reluctant to exercise the Nullification option to protect their own citizens!
"America’s Founders understood clearly that private property is the foundation not only of prosperity but of freedom itself. Thus, through the common law, state law, and the Constitution they protected property rights—the rights of people to freely acquire, use, and dispose of property.
With the growth of modern government, however, those rights have been seriously compromised.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has yet to develop a principled, much less comprehensive, theory for remedying those violations. That failure has led to the birth of the property rights movement in state after state. It is time now for Congress to step in—to correct its own violations and to set out a standard that courts might notice as they adjudicate complaints about state violations.

The Constitution protects property rights mainly through the Fifth Amendment’s Takings or Just Compensation Clause: ‘‘nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.’’ There are two basic ways government can take property: (1) outright, by condemning the property and taking the title; and (2) through regulations that take uses, leaving the title with the owner—so-called regulatory takings. 

In the first case, the title is all-too-often taken not for a public use but for a private use; and rarely is the compensation received by the owner just. In the second case, the owner is often not compensated at all for his losses, and when he is the compensation is again inadequate." Finish reading at source
Will whistleblowers please step forward. Your country needs you.

Local Governments Increase Revenue by Seizing Property Belonging to those not Charged with Crimes

Tuesday, September 09, 2014 from AllGov

Philadelphia District
Attorney R. Seth Williams

Using a program developed to combat drug trafficking, local governments across the United States have boosted their budgets with monies and property forfeited by individuals who were never charged with breaking the law.

An investigation by The Washington Post found cities and counties have pocketed more than $1.7 billion since 2001 through the federal Equitable Sharing Program, which encourages local police to stop citizens and seize their possessions, even if they haven't been proven to having done anything wrong.

"Asset forfeiture is an extraordinarily powerful law enforcement tool that allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired," the Post's Michael Sallah, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Steven Rich wrote.

The $1.7 billion collected by local governments was part of a $2.5 billion total which came from "61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments." The remaining $800 million was split among the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

Philadelphia has one of the worst such records. It seizes cash and property worth about $6 million each year and since 2002 has generated about $64 million in forfeitures, according to Forbes. Over that period, 1,172 pieces of real estate were seized by the city. The other jurisdictions in Pennsylvania combined seized only 56 real properties over that period.

Federal law is supposed to prevent local governments from using seized cash from supplementing budgets for law enforcement. Nevertheless, the newspaper found nearly 300 departments that had "seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008."

Those on the wrong end of these seizures have had to spend considerable money on court fights to get their property and possessions back. The Post found that only a sixth of the seizures were challenged, but 41% of those who went to court got money returned. In many cases, the plaintiffs had to agree not to sue the law enforcement agency to recover.

In Philadelphia, those seeking restitution are forced to report to a "courtroom," run by not a judge but a prosecutor, repeatedly in order to have a chance to have their property returned. And since the hearings are in civil court, plaintiffs don't have a right to a court-appointed attorney.

The federal program was developed decades ago to assist police in breaking up drug cartels and capturing the luxuries of kingpins. Now, it's being used for the wrong reasons, critics say.

"Those laws were meant to take a guy out for selling $1 million in cocaine or who was trying to launder large amounts of money," Mark Overton, police chief in Bal Harbour, Florida, who ran a federal drug task force in South Florida, told The Post. "It was never meant for a street cop to take a few thousand dollars from a driver by the side of the road."

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
Stop and Seize (by Michael Sallah, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Steven Rich, Washington Post)
Seizing Citizens' Property as a Revenue Source for Law Enforcement (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)