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Asset Forfeiture: Justice Department Collaborating With State, Local Cops in "Policing for Profit," Report Says

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #626)
Drug War Issues

State and local law enforcement agencies in states that direct that seized assets go into the state general fund -- instead of into the hands of the seizing agency -- are increasingly turning their booty over to the federal government in a bid to keep their hands on the loot, according to a new report from the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice. So-called "equitable sharing" between local cops and the feds nearly doubled between 2000 and 2008, from slightly more than $200 million to $400 million.

US Dept. of Justice assets forfeiture program logo -- helping state, county and local police departments evade the law
The report, Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture said that the trend toward "equitable sharing" is most pronounced in states that limit the use of proceeds from asset forfeitures. Similarly, in states where property owners are presumed innocent, law enforcement is more likely to collaborate with the feds to take advantage of looser federal asset forfeiture standards.

"These results demonstrate not only that federal equitable sharing is a loophole that state and local law enforcement use to circumvent strict state laws, but also that pursuit of profit is a significant motivator in civil forfeiture actions," the report found. "Simply put, when laws make civil forfeiture easier and more profitable, law enforcement engages in more of it."

The report also grades the 50 states on how well asset forfeiture laws protect the rights of citizens and provides an "evasion grade" measuring the degree to which state and local law enforcement bypass limits in state laws in order to keep the profits from seized assets for themselves. It was a dismal exercise, with only three states -- Maine, North Dakota, and Vermont -- receiving a combined grade of B or higher. The other 47 states all received C's or D's.

The lowest-graded states overall, with both poor laws and aggressive resort to "equitable sharing," are Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Steve Swimmer (not verified)

Here are the facts of my personal encounter with the Drug War. Judge for yourself. Is this what you want for America?
Fact one: My Son, Michael, is among the all to numerous “extra judicial” homicide deaths, here in the United States, directly attributed to the Drug War. He was gunned down by, quite literally now, hooded jack booted Drug Warrior thugs with police badges.
While Michael stood naked by his own bed, Drug Warriors burst through his front door and riddled his bedroom with machine gun fire. Michael was shot 10 times and died a few hours later. The Authorities all agreed killing my Son (who had no police record) was just, because an unidentified informant said Michael had 368 tablets of ecstasy and, of course, the Drug Warriors claimed there was the always just too convenient gun (which was never fired nor even produced).
By now every American should know: In the name of the "War on Drugs," our Drug Warriors, with little or no compunction, shoot people to death. Is this what you want for America? More death?
Fact two: I was arrested, in New Orleans (for marijuana), Drug Warriors manipulated the entire matter and delivered the marijuana. I was to pay what I could, when I could and if I could. I had no where-with-all to accomplish the crime so the Government provided all of that.
What I had was the "propensity" to do the crime; therefore, according to our law, all the Government did was considered completely legal. I was forced to agree to a set prison sentence while, quite oddly, forced to tell the Judge I wasn't being coerced.
In my case, there was no marijuana (other than the Government's), no guns, and no money; yet, at 50 years old, with no police record, I became a manufactured criminal in the Drug War while the taxpayers spent around a million dollars on my arrest, conviction and incarceration.
The U.S. imprisons 25% of the world's prisoners while our population comprises 5% of the world's people. Per capita, we imprison six times the number of British prisoners. Do you really think our people are that bad? With 2,500,000 Americans behind bars and post-prison impediments afflicting around 15 million more, it is small wonder there are so many jobs available for illegal immigrants and no money for health care.
Trust me on this one, I've been there: A huge number of U.S. prisoners should not be in prison. True, some people need to be incarcerated; unfortunately, U.S. prisons are full of non-violent prisoners serving outrageously long sentences. Is this what you want for America? More manufactured prisoners?
Fact three: Drug Warriors will not tell you the truth about the drug war. They are in it to deep and have become an important part in the prison/industrial complex.
True, the Drug Warriors have forced me to bow by implementing procedures like sanctioned murder of my Son, Federal imprisonment, character assassination and confiscation of property.
Also true, today, I am completely cowed, afraid and powerless to resist. I know, for an experienced unequivocal fact: my Government can, at will, set me up for an arrest and conviction, adjust my sentence to however long they want or shoot me, my family and even my dog, until dead. And, not one person will be able to do anything about it.
So, I ask the last question: In order to appease the Drug Warriors’ blood lust approach to the Drug War, will the rest of the American people be forced to cower before the Government as I must cower?

Fri, 04/02/2010 - 2:12pm Permalink
Jean Boyd (not verified)

In reply to by Steve Swimmer (not verified)

Bravery is the only option at this point. If everyone stands up together now and in peace, it will end. I am sorry for what happened to your son and to all the children that were and are being killed, mamed or caught up in this war. We will tell our stories.

Sat, 04/03/2010 - 3:13pm Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

Between "eminent domain", and "asset forfeiture", Property tax's are illegal. Why do we have to pay tax on someone Else's land? That's even more wrong. Income tax is, by the very definition, "extortion". Paying tax on something you don't own is just stupid. The government owns the land, they pay the tax. I can't believe people still think they "own" land in the USA. You don't "own" anything, your child's birth certificate, is a contract between you and the state for ownership of your child. Think I'm kiddin'? CPS is the collection agency of the governmental child trafficking industry, and the state has the power to take any child they want, for whatever reason, made up, or true. Think I'm kiddin'? You can be arrested, for no reason, except 'suspicion, held indefinitely,without a lawyer, tortured, and "assassinated" if your thought to be a "threat".

Fri, 04/02/2010 - 2:44pm Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

Forfeiture, or ‘confiscation’ as it’s been called throughout legal history, is an abusive legal tactic that always berates its victims and creates massive government corruption.

Prohibitionists made ‘forfeiture’ the term for ‘confiscation’ when the forfeiture laws were written under Drug Czar Bensinger’s reign of error.  Was the labeling a coincidence?  Or was it done to deter people from stumbling onto confiscation’s sordid past?  Personally, I think forfeiture is a euphemism for confiscation, and confiscation is a euphemism for theft.

Take a page from the vast history of confiscation.  Before the French Revolution, a French family could have their total assets seized by the Catholic Church if a single family member was determined to have committed suicide.  Maybe the idea was to discourage suicides, but the law mainly succeeded in driving suicidal people to disguise their intentions, sometimes not so effectively.  There is no doubt the Church knew this fact.

The Roman Church also knew it could manipulate evidence or frame the context of a non-natural death to make it look like a suicide in order to rake in some quick cash, or to punish a political enemy, and that’s what they did.  It wasn’t as if they hadn’t done it before.  For 500 years prior to the revolution in France, the various inquisitions confiscated the property of alleged heretics’ and their families, even sometimes applying confiscation to five generations of the heretic’s descendents.

The French citizens obviously had no love for confiscation.  Voltaire made a bigger name for himself when he successfully defended a family targeted by the authorities for confiscation because of a suicide.  For many, ending asset confiscation for suicides wasn’t enough to heal the awful damage done by the Church’s schemes.  The French revolutionaries repaid the clergy’s profiteering with interest when years later they guillotined clerics in the thousands.


Tue, 04/06/2010 - 11:55pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

A new euphemism for "confiscation" or "forfeiture" is the allegedly more compassionate policy on cannabis persecution where administration voices assure us they will
now restrain the crackdown on individual users but "go after the bigtime traffickers". Of course this policy really boils down to the old policy of keeping the provision of cannabis prohibitvely expensive so that we pay hundreds per ounce instead of under $20 for true production costs.

Further, the entire historic war on cannabis must be clearly identified as a war to protect and prolong the Hot Burning Overdose Nicotine $igarette Industry war to make money on a genocide of approaching 6,000,000 corpses a year. The discrepancy between the price of an ounce (two 20-packs) of $igarette tobackgo and an ounce of cannabis is the glaringest message received by youngsters in our prison-industrial country and, under its global influence, worldwide. Sources allege that statistically half of all nicotine addicts are hooked before legal age to purchase the product. If cannabis had been affordable to those same millions of children this $200-bil./year "tobacco" health cost to the US economy might long since have been exterminated.

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 10:13pm Permalink
Anonymous Person (not verified)

Drug war is just a huge, underground profit maker for the goverment if there was no drug war there would be no salaries.

Cops came to my house twice busted in with no warrant and just dipped nothing happened, crooks i call um...

Tue, 08/24/2010 - 8:23pm Permalink

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