Incarceration, Asset Forfeiture, Arrests, Informants, Police Raids, Search and Seizure

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New Study: Most Money Has Cocaine Residue On It

Researchers at Dartmouth have provided further confirmation of the popular rumor:
A UMass Dartmouth chemistry professor's study detected trace amounts of cocaine in 67 percent of the dollar bills researchers collected in Southeastern Massachusetts during the past two years.

"I hope this can give objective data so law enforcement can take the right measures to eliminate, or reduce, these kinds of problems and increase the community's security," Mr. Zuo said. [southcoasttoday.com]
I'm not sure what he means here. Obviously, the drug war is precisely the reason we all have drugs stuck to our money. The drug trade is a cash-only business, thanks to prohibition. So every time you reach into your wallet, the far-reaching consequences of our disastrous war on drugs will literally stick to your fingers. There's nothing law-enforcement can do about that, except speak out against this mindless crusade.

Really, if there's anything worthwhile to be learned from all this, it's that police must stop confiscating people's money every time a drug sniffing dog hits on it. Over and over we learn about naïve citizens losing their life-savings under our forfeiture laws, often based largely on that singular and clearly absurd criteria.

Having traces of drugs on your money doesn't mean you're a drug dealer. It just means you live in a nation with a massive, out of control war on drugs that infects everything it touches.
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Defenders of Paramilitary Policing Don't Know What They're Talking About

A recent post in which I criticized no-knock drug raids provoked this response in comments:

Guess what??? Drug warrants are served to arrest the bad guy and find the drugs. If you knock and wait what do you think happens to the drugs?? You guessed it, they disappear! I know that you want the drugs to be legal, but they’re not. So for now, we honest citizens are glad that the police are taking the drugs off the streets and we know that isn’t possible if they knock on the drug dealer’s door and ask them to pretty please come out.

This is absurd on a couple levels and it deserves to be highlighted since this type of thinking is precisely what we're up against. First, as Dave Borden pointed out, you can't flush a grow room down the toilet. Or a meth lab. Or any substantial quantity of anything. Having relied solely on the "drug flush" justification in defense of aggressive police raids, would the commenter then concede that a more patient approach is ok whenever there's no clear officer safety threat and the items listed in the warrant aren’t flushable?

Regardless, as weak as the "drug flush" excuse is, it's almost entirely beside the point. We're concerned primarily about the alarming number of completely innocent people that are being shot dead during misunderstandings that are caused by these tactics. Wrong-door raids are so common that the city of Los Angeles has a team specifically for the purpose of cleaning up after wrong address drug raids. Fatal altercations with innocent people who think they're being robbed have become commonplace.

It is just amazing that someone could speak out in defense of these raids without addressing this obvious and dramatic problem. I linked to a list of dead innocent people, so the commenter had an opportunity to learn about this. Arguing against us without responding to our primary concern is just a waste of everyone's time.

Criticisms of our ideas are welcome here, but in the interest of having a productive debate, I hope that it will be possible to address the central themes when discussing a topic such as this. We're talking about innocent people getting killed, not just guilty people flushing toilets. Any questions?

Location: 
United States

Latin America: Police in Rio Kill 11 in One Drug Raid, Three in Another

The endemic drug prohibition-related violence in Rio de Janeiro took another bloody turn March 3, when Brazilian police trying to catch members of the city's powerful drug-dealing enterprises killed at least 11 residents of a poor neighborhood, according to reports citing the Associated Press. Despite the death toll, the primary target of the raid, a suspected gang leader, apparently got away.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/favela.jpg
favela neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro
That same day, police also reported killing three drug dealers and a car thief in separate shootouts in the Rio suburb of Nova Iguaçu, according to the AP.

Television footage showed bodies lying on the streets in the favelas of Coréia and Vila Aliança after the raids. Favelas are the shantytowns that rise on the mountainsides above the city proper. Chronically underserved by the state, favela residents and local quasi-governmental organizations are locked in a variety of symbiotic relationships with both the drug gangs, or "comandos," and the police who make a living combating them.

Often patrolled by police only at their entrances -- except for the occasional raid -- the favelas provide a geographic base for the comandos, as well as retail outlets, or "bocas," for retail drug sales to favela-dwellers, and residents of the city proper.

Conflict between police and the comandos has resulted in frequent outbursts of violence, including coordinated attacks by comandos on police posts and the urban transportation system. Last year, some 1,300 people were killed in Rio's drug wars.

Last week's killings come less than a month after President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva visited Rio favelas to inaugurate an infrastructure development project. At the time, he warned police to treat local residents with respect.

SWAT Officers Brought Children Along on a Drug Raid

Over and over again we're told that dynamic entry no-knock drug raid tactics are necessary because drug suspects are armed and dangerous. Anyone who suggests otherwise is accused of hostility to law-enforcement, and yet the very officers conducting these raids routinely demonstrate nonchalance about the supposed risks. Via The Agitator:
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- Two SWAT officers are being counseled after bringing their young children along with them on a drug raid.

The Orange County SWAT team searched a house on Napoleon Street Friday, arresting three people and recovering guns and drugs.

The two officers who brought their children on the raid will not be disciplined. [local6.com]
Remember when police brought Shaquille O'Neal along on a drug raid? His body itself is worth millions and his massive size makes him an easy target, but they brought him along anyway.

The point here isn't that police shouldn't bring children or NBA stars along on drug raids, although one certainly wonders why they would do that. The point is that if police think these raids are safe enough for children, then the "officer safety" arguments they use to justify aggressive entry tactics appear disingenuous. If these raids are safe enough for civilians, can't we find a way to make them safe for the innocent people that keep getting killed?
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United States

LEAP on the Hill: Stories from Week of March 28, 2008

[Courtesy of LEAP] My better half said: Yet another conversation in the hallway starting with my hat, ended in the elevator, crowded with mostly female staffers. Blah, blah, blah (spoken quietly), then raising my voice so all would hear, …."When it comes to drugs, as my wife and better half said; the state, thru its police department, can not stop personal stupidity." There was a murmur, light chuckle, and all smiles as the door opened. Karen is indeed the author of the phrase, BTW (Ubrigens) Ask the Governor what she thinks: In meeting with a hard-core drug warrior office from Michigan this week, I employed my new line, ‘can your state afford the free federal money to arrest dealers, when, back home, the state might have to spend 60 million to build a new 500 bed prison to keep them @ 30,000 per year times xx years?’ It was a ‘Kodak’ moment to get the aide to admit that the office had not considered the ‘downstream,’ state costs of the ‘free’ fed money. As I suggested he have the Congressman call Governor Granholm (D-MI) and ask if she had money in her budget to house the extra dealers, he did not dismiss my idea. His facial expressions and other non-verbal language told me that I had punched the idea into his brain. A little Crown that night to celebrate and another small step on this long journey. PS: I was on the Hill a lot these past two weeks & thus the Stories are late. Congress was in recess and that is the best time to receive extra time with staffers. Apologies.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Search and Seizure: Vermont Supreme Court Throws Out Marijuana Conviction Based on Warrantless Aerial Surveillance

In a decision handed down last Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court threw out the felony marijuana cultivation conviction of a man caught growing marijuana following a warrantless flyover of his rural property by a military helicopter. Vermont residents have a broad privacy right "that ascends into the airspace above their homes and property," the court held in State v. Bryant.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/eradication-helicopter.jpg
marijuana eradication helicopter, Nashville
The case began in 2003, when Stephen Bryant, who owned a remote Addison County home, told a local official he didn't want trespassers. That unnamed official "found defendant's insistence on privacy to be 'paranoid,'" the opinion noted, and suggested that a Vermont State Police team do a flyover to look for marijuana. Under the rules of the state's Marijuana Eradication Team, which uses Vermont Army National Guard helicopters and pilots, flights are supposed to stay 500 feet above the ground. But an August 7, 2003 surveillance flight dipped down to 100 feet and hovered above Bryant's property for half an hour.

Troopers in the chopper saw marijuana plants, then used that information to obtain a search warrant. Bryant was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and cultivation. At trial, he argued that he used marijuana for medicinal purposes to treat an old work injury. Jurors acquitted him of possession, but convicted him of cultivation. In June, 2005, he was sentenced to 45 days. His appeal followed.

The Vermont constitution protects the privacy rights of residents even if it means some pot plants may go unseized, the court held in an opinion written by Associate Justice Marilyn Skoglund for the 4-1 majority.

"We protect defendant's marijuana plots against such surveillance so that law-abiding citizens may relax in their backyards, enjoying a sense of security that they are free from unreasonable surveillance. Vermonters expect -- at least at a private, rural residence on posted land -- that they will be free from intrusions that interrupt their use of their property, expose their intimate activities, or create undue noise, wind, or dust," wrote Skoglund.

"With technological advances in surveillance techniques, the privacy-protection question is no longer whether police have physically invaded a constitutionally protected area. Rather, the inquiry is whether the surveillance invaded a constitutionally protected legitimate expectation of privacy," she added.

"The decision is a boon to all Vermonters," said Middlebury attorney William Nelson, who represented Bryant at the Supreme Court. "It protects our privacy when we are out of doors, on our own property, and in our own yards," he told the Burlington Free Press after the decision.

The opinion serves as further evidence that the state constitution gives Vermonters greater privacy protection than federal laws do, Vermont law school professor Cheryl Hanna told the Free Press. "A lot of people feel the federal government doesn't respect privacy rights after Sept. 11," said Hanna. "Vermonters, at least at the state level, have that additional check on what the government can do."

Law Enforcement: Detroit Prosecutor Charged With Misconduct for Allowing False Testimony in Drug Case, Misleading Jury

The head of the Major Narcotics Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office has been charged with professional misconduct for allowing an informant and two Inkster police officers to lie on the stand in a 2005 cocaine case and for misleading jurors in her closing arguments in the case, the Detroit Free Press reported, citing the state Attorney Grievance Commission. The prosecutor, Karen Plants, was reassigned from her supervisory position Tuesday, after the Free Press called Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office seeking comment on the charges, which were filed Monday.

Worthy was in the news just a week ago announcing she would seek criminal charges against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, for perjuring themselves in a police whistle-blower case. In announcing the criminal charges against the pair, Worthy said perjury cannot be tolerated in court proceedings.

But she was singing a different tune when it came to one of her prosecutors abetting perjury. Although Worthy conceded there was perjury in the 2005 drug case, she said Plants had properly notified the judge after the trial.

Still, Worthy had to reiterate her office's stance on perjury. "The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office does not condone perjury of any kind," Worthy wrote. "The office takes very seriously its obligations to the public, to the accused, and will continue to do so in the future."

Here's what happened: Informant Chad Povish gave police information leading to a 47-kilogram cocaine seizure in March 2005. During a preliminary examination, two evidentiary hearings, and the 2005 trial, Plants allowed Povish, Inskster Police Sgt. Scott Rechtzigel and Det. Robert McArthur to repeatedly deny they knew each other. That prevented defense attorneys from finding out Povish was a paid snitch and attacking his credibility, the commission charged.

Povish actually tipped off the police to a drug buy, then took duffel bags full of cocaine from one defendant before police arrived. He later told jurors he had never met the cops before and he didn't know what was in the duffel bags. Plants knew the claims were untrue, but never corrected them, the commission said. Even worse, she tried to buttress those false claims during closing arguments to the jury, characterizing Povish and another witness as "dummies who were stupid enough to be the carriers, the mules."

According to the commission, Plants told Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Waterstone twice that the cops and informant had lied, but neither Plants nor the judge notified the defense. "He knowingly committed perjury to protect the identification of the" informant, Plants told the judge in one instance. "I let the perjury happen."

Waterstone said she understood the perjury was committed to protect the snitch's life, a claim made by Plants. But the commission pointedly noted that prosecutors had produced no evidence that Povish's life was indeed in danger or would be if his role was disclosed.

Waterstone has since retired from the bench.

The prosecutor's office later filed a confession of error in the case of one defendant after he was convicted, but both defendants ended up taking plea bargains with significant prison time. But they also both appealed, and one of them, Alexander Aceval, saw his case sent back to the appeals court by the state Supreme Court to decide if the perjured testimony denied him a fair trial.

Aceval's lawyer, David Moffitt of Bingham Farms, told the Free Press the episode is "the worst instance of police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct" he has seen. "Not only did they attempt to unfairly convict my client, they covered up and lied in the face of accusations about the scheme."

Legal experts consulted by the newspaper agreed the charges were serious. "If a prosecutor violates a legal or ethical duty, the criminal justice system is perverted," said Larry Dubin, an ethics professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Farmington Hills lawyer Michael Schwartz, grievance administrator for the commission in 1979-88, said: "The normal everyday result should be disbarment. But the mitigation is that she wasn't doing it for herself. She was trying to protect a confidential informant."

Schwartz also faulted Judge Waterstone, who he said should have declared a mistrial or told jurors witnesses had lied once she knew. "A judge simply cannot sit by and do nothing," Schwartz said. She "has to make sure the rules of ethics are adhered to."

Whether Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy will prosecute the lying police and informant like she is the mayor and his one-time paramour remains to be seen. Meanwhile, prosecutor Plants, who abetted the perjury and misled the jury, has been demoted, but is still on the job.

New JPI Report: Jail populations exploding; massive growth devastating local communities

Washington, D.C.: Communities are bearing the cost of a massive explosion in the jail population which has nearly doubled in less than two decades, according to a new report released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI). The research found that jails are now warehousing more people--who have not been found guilty of any crime--for longer periods of time than ever before. The research shows that in part due to the rising costs of bail, people arrested today are much more likely to serve jail time before trial than they would have been twenty years ago, even though crime rates are nearly at the lowest levels in thirty years. "Crime rates are down, but you're more likely to serve time in jail today than you would have been twenty years ago," said the report's co-author Amanda Petteruti. "Jail bonds have skyrocketed, so that means if you're poor, you do time. People are being punished before they're found guilty-justice is undermined." The report, Jailing Communities: The Impact of Jail Expansion and Effective Public Safety Strategies, found jail population growth (22 percent), is having serious consequences for communities that are now paying tens of billions yearly to sustain jails. Jails are filled with people with drug addictions, the homeless and people charged with immigration offenses. The report concludes that jails have become the "new asylums," with six out of 10 people in jail living with a mental illness. The impact of increased jail imprisonment is not borne equally by all members of a community. New data reveal that Latinos are most likely to have to pay bail, have the highest bail amounts, are least likely to be able to pay and, by far, the least likely to be released prior to trial. African Americans are nearly five times as likely to be incarcerated in jails as whites and almost three times as likely as Latinos. Further exacerbating jail crowding problems is the increase in the number of people being held in jails for immigration violations-up 500 percent in the last decade. In 2004, local governments spent a staggering $97 billion on criminal justice, including police, the courts and jails. Over $19 billion of county money went to financing jails alone. By way of comparison, during the same time period, local governments spent just $8.7 billion on libraries and only $28 billion on higher education. "These counties just cannot afford to invest the bulk of their local public safety budget in jails, and we are beginning to see why--the more a community relies on jails, the less it has to invest in education, employment and proven public safety strategies," says Nastassia Walsh, co-author of the report. Research shows that places that increased their jail populations did not necessarily see a drop in violent crimes. Falling jail incarceration rates are associated with declining violent crime rates in some of the country's largest counties and cities, like New York City. "The investment in building more jail beds is not making communities safer," says Derrick Johnson, NAACP National Board member. "Instead these investments serve only to unfairly target communities of color and waste taxpayer dollars." The report recommends that communities take action to reduce their jail populations and increase public safety by: * Improving release procedures for pretrial and sentenced populations. Implementing pretrial release programs that release people from jail before trial can help alleviate jail populations. Reforming bail guidelines would allow a greater number of people to post bail, leaving space open in jails for people who may pose a greater threat to public safety. * Developing and implementing alternatives to incarceration. Alternatives such as community-based corrections would permit people to be removed from the jail, allowing them to continue to work, stay with their families, and be part of the community, while under supervision. * Re-examining policies that lock up individuals for nonviolent crimes. Reducing the number of people in jail for nonviolent offenses leaves resources and space available for people who may need to be detained for a public safety reason. * Diverting people with mental health and drug treatment needs to the public health system and community-based treatment. People who suffer from mental health or substance abuse problems are better served by receiving treatment in their community. Treatment is more cost-effective than incarceration and promotes a positive public safety agenda. * Diverting spending on jail construction to agencies that work on community supervision and make community supervision effective. Reallocating funding to probation services will allow people to be placed in appropriate treatment or other social services and is a less costly investment in public safety. * Providing more funding for front-end services such as education, employment, and housing. Research has shown that education, employment, drug treatment, health care, and the availability of affordable housing coincide with lower crime rates. For more information on Jailing Communities, contact LaWanda Johnson at 202-558-7974, ext. 308. ### The Justice Policy Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank dedicated to ending society's reliance on incarceration and promoting effective and just solutions to social problems. For more information, visit www.justicepolicy.org.
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United States

Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court to Decide Warrantless Search Case

The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case that could clarify limits on when police using an informant may enter a residence. The case is Pearson v. Callahan (07-751), in which five members of the Central Utah Narcotics Task Force are being sued by a man whose home was searched without a warrant after an informant bought methamphetamine inside.

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US Supreme Court
In 2002, a snitch working with the task force bought $100 worth of meth from Afton Callahan inside Callahan's trailer in Fillmore, Utah. Once the officers waiting outside received the snitch's signal via wire that the deal had gone down, they entered and searched the trailer and arrested Callahan for sale and possession of meth.

Callahan moved to have the evidence suppressed because a warrantless search is unconstitutional, but a state court trial judge rejected that motion. Callahan then agreed to a conditional guilty plea while appealing the Fourth Amendment issue. A state appeals court later agreed with him and overturned his conviction.

Callahan then turned around and sued the task force members for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The officers then argued that they were immune under the doctrine of "qualified immunity," which holds that government officials cannot be held liable for violating a law that was not clear at the time. A federal district judge, Paul Cassell, ruled in 2006 that the police were entitled to immunity, even if the search was unconstitutional, but the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overruled Cassell, holding that the Constitution was so clear on the need for a warrant that no reasonable police officer would have proceeded without one.

Lawyers for the police officers then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which will have to decide both the search and the immunity questions. But despite what the 10th Circuit held, the federal courts are divided on whether a warrant is necessary in those circumstances. Some federal circuits -- but not the 10th -- have created the strange notion of a "consent-once-removed" exception to the Fourth Amendment. Under that theory, someone who consents to the entry of an undercover police informant is also consenting to the entry of police as well -- even if he doesn't know it. Because the resident gives permission to the snitch to enter, he has also given permission for the police to enter, this novel doctrine holds.

Now, the US Supreme Court will decide if there will be yet one more addition to the holes in the Fourth Amendment created by the drug war. And whether police who conduct unconstitutional searches will have to pay for them.

Join us this Sunday, March 30, 2pm, for a Free reception with Prison Legal News

[Courtesy of Prison Art Gallery] You are cordially invited to attend a free reception at the Prison Art Gallery, 1600 K St NW, Washington, DC (three blocks from the White House) on Sunday, March 30, 2pm, for a talk by Paul Wright, Editor of Prison Legal News, and Alex Friedmann, Associate Editor. Both are accomplished legal writers, researchers and justice advocates who are recognized experts in the fields of prisoner rights, sentencing reform, and related justice topics. There will be a question and answer period following their presentation. This is a rare opportunity to get your legal questions answered by knowledgeable professionals who closely follow the latest trends and court decisions...a must if you care about anyone in prison. Paul spent more than a decade in prison where he began publishing Prison Legal News. A monthly news journal, it is now the pre-eminent source of information about criminal justice and prison developments. It is circulated and used by men and women in virtually every jail and prison in America. Get the latest issue FREE at the reception. Paul will also be bringing and signing copies of his new book, Prison Profiteers, a critical look at over-incarceration in America and who profits from it. Don't miss this rare opportunity to gain important knowledge and understanding from two professionals in the know. Free refreshments will be served. Also at the reception, the Prison Art Gallery will unveil its new media blitz marketing campaign featuring DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. You'll be astounded at what the mayor (his childhood friend was in prison with our director) is willing to do (in addition to the grant money the city has provided us). For further information, please email staff@PrisonsFoundation.org or call 202-393-1511.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

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