Prosecutor On Forfeiture Reforms: Making Us Prosecute Drugs Cases Will Make It Harder To Prosecute Drug Cases
from the catch-22-is-non-fiction dept
I thought I had read the worst defense of civil asset forfeiture when I read a former Michigan police chief’s argument against a conviction requirement being instituted in his state. Former Police Chief Robert Stevenson’s argument was basically this: a conviction requirement makes it too hard for cops to take property from people without proof.
Law enforcement will be severely handicapped if state lawmakers succumb to the misconception that no forfeiture should take place without a conviction on proceeds under $50,000.
Drugs may not be present, but everything else confirms and indicates drug trafficking, i.e., ledger books, scales, pre-recorded narcotics buy funds and packaging materials. In this particular scenario, as well as a multitude of others, the police and prosecutors could not establish a case to seize anything if Michigan adopts the $50,000 threshold.
All this evidence and nothing to do with it, I guess. Like many in the law enforcement field, Stevenson clings to the myth that robbing random people at gunpoint somehow cripples drug cartels. This belief is backed by far less evidence than the long list of stuff Stevenson claims can’t be cobbled into a successful prosecution. We’re more than 40 years deep into a War on Drugs and the only thing that’s changed for the positive is the public’s attitude towards civil asset forfeiture.
Michigan’s legislature is considering adding a conviction requirement for forfeitures under $50,000. Opponents of property rights and due process keep crawling out of the woodwork, offering up increasingly nonsensical defenses of forfeiture. But nothing is stupider than this prosecutor’s objection:
”Since a conviction is now required, it will make it extremely difficult to prosecute high level drug dealers,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said via email.
REQUIRING PROSECUTORS TO PROSECUTE DRUG DEALERS WILL MAKE IT HARDER TO PROSECUTE DRUG DEALERS.
This kind of reasoning suggests the real problem with closing the deal, prosecution-wise, might be the prosecutor’s arguments.
It doesn’t get worse from there. But it certainly doesn’t get any better. Allowing Worthy to expand on this theory does not bring enlightenment or clarification. It just makes the theory bigger and dumber.
“Often in these cases, witnesses are intimidated to the point that they do not show up for trial, sometimes losing their lives because of the retaliation,” Worthy said. “It is our fear that this will get worse now that drug dealers know that if there are no witnesses, there will be no conviction and they can get their property back.”
How in fuck do you draw the line from “taking cash from some dude cops pulled over” to “witness intimidation?” This is the brilliant legal mind handling prosecutions for Michigan’s largest city. All this says is that forfeiture was never about keeping drugs and drug dealers off the street. It was always about the cash. We know this, but cops and prosecutors will never say it out loud. Worthy’s attempt to portray almost-suspicionless cash seizures as leverage in prosecutions the government NEVER PLANS TO PURSUE is inadvertently transparent.
The only argument that could be worse than Worthy’s defense is the truth: cops and prosecutors prefer taking property because it’s easier and it enriches them personally. But we should expect nothing less (nothing more?) from a prosecutor who once asserted there’s a link between real-life and video game violence, stating “no one” could “convince” her otherwise, no matter what evidence they presented. Seems like evidence and assertions are never in the same place when Worthy’s in charge. I can see why she’s so opposed to doing a job she’s clearly not qualified to perform.