Forfeiture In Theory: TAKING DOWN DRUG LORDS! Forfeiture In Practice: Taking A Guy's TV And PlayStation During A Drug Raid

from the can't-make-a-drug-war-without-breaking-a-few-home-electronics dept

Asset forfeiture means taking everything that isn’t nailed down. Why bother being selective? In most cases, it’s pure profit for the law enforcement agency that performs the seizure. And since forfeitures are so rarely successfully challenged, it’s pretty much a foolproof way to make a little extra cash. The citizens who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (in their own houses with their own possessions) are acceptable collateral damage.

We’re in the middle of a war against drugs. Collateral damage should be expected. That’s the viewpoint of drug warriors, even when the “acceptable” collateral damage means nothing more than law enforcement officers taking stuff just because they can.

Here’s a rare successful motion for a return of property — one filed against the Bay County (FL) Sheriff’s Office by a person who had his stuff taken even though it was his father being charged with criminal acts. The son — whose father had all charges dropped after passing away — took on the Office and secured a ruling that should finally give him back what was taken from him. (via FourthAmendment.com)

Unfortunately, there are still some hurdles standing between the plaintiff and the 75-inch TV and PlayStation 4 taken by the Sheriff’s Office during a raid of his father’s house. One set of hurdles has already been cleared. But it involved getting the Office to not only admit it was lying about taking the property, but also admitting it had likely liquidated the seized items before it had legal permission to do so.

Here’s how the Florida Court of Appeals details the events [PDF] leading up to its findings in favor of the plaintiff.

The Sheriff’s Office initially denied having taken these items, but ultimately admitted that it had. By the time of the hearing below, the Sheriff no longer had the items and did not know where they were.

So, that’s the first part of the puzzle. The Office lied to the plaintiff, if not the court itself. And it had apparently gotten rid of the seized property prior to giving the deceased’s son a chance to ask for its return. Despite this, the Sheriff’s Office argued it lawfully possessed the property it could no longer locate because the “title” to the seized property would have automatically transferred to the Sheriff’s Office sixty days after the “conclusion of a legal proceeding.” The death of the accused started the sixty-day clock, according to the Sheriff.

Wrong, says the court. That 60-day transfer only goes into effect if the contested items were seized “pursuant to a lawful investigation.” That’s a pretty low bar but the Sheriff’s Office failed to meet it.

At the hearing below, the Sheriff did not address, and therefore did not prove, whether Appellant’s TV and PlayStation were lawfully seized from his bedroom during a search related to his late father’s drug charges.

And that’s where the lower court went wrong. It never bothered to make the Sheriff’s Office establish the items — seized from the plaintiff’s bedroom — were linked to the charges facing his father. Back it goes to the lower court where the Sheriff’s Office will have to offer some evidence linking the property it can no longer locate to the charges no longer pending against the plaintiff’s dead father. Good luck with that. Just because items are inside a house belonging to someone who sells drugs doesn’t mean every item in the house was purchased with ill-gotten gains.

If no tenuous link was asserted then, there’s no link to a lawful seizure, which means the clock on automatic transfer to the cop shop inventory isn’t 60 days, but four years. The items are likely long gone. But the Sheriff’s Office may soon find itself shelling out its own ill-gotten gains to replace the ones it apparently unlawfully took from the plaintiff during its drug warring.

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Comments on “Forfeiture In Theory: TAKING DOWN DRUG LORDS! Forfeiture In Practice: Taking A Guy's TV And PlayStation During A Drug Raid”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Legalized armed robbery

Anyone else who broke into a house(or were even there on legitimate business like repair/installation of something), stole a tv and PS4 and then sold the stolen goods and pocketed the money from the sale would be on the hook for the relevant charges in a heartbeat, the fact that this is taking multiple court cases and is still not resolved, nor the robbers involved likely to face any personal penalty just shows how corrupt ‘asset forfeiture’ has become and how it needs to be killed off entirely as providing all the wrong incentives.

Also given the department has already shown itself to be staffed with liars a check of officer homes by a third party under the direction of the court might not be amiss, as I wouldn’t put it past them to have ‘sold’ the stolen goods to one of their own.

Anonymous Coward says:

there are more people in the police forces who are corrupt than there are who are not in the police forces! that’s proven by the fact that those outside the force stick to certain things, taking only what is relevant to whatever ‘business’ they are doing and are involved in. those inside the police force take everything from everyone at every opportunity! even worse is that these ‘officers’ are supposed to make sure that nothing that belongs to others disappears, certainly not into the coffers of said officers!!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"that’s proven by the fact that those outside the force stick to certain things, taking only what is relevant to whatever ‘business’ they are doing and are involved in."

It’s proven more by the long-standing legal umbrella held over police forces. No other profession allows someone to perform armed robbery with the full weight of the law backing you, so naturally everyone inclined to take what isn’t theirs is heavily motivated to seek gainful employment among the boys in blue.

Lamentably the same incentive exists for people whose joys in life are to beat, bully, and murder other people who may or may not be slightly differently shaded than themselves – as can be seen by the sheer amount of thuggery in the statistics.

Everyone looks for a job where they get to do the things they love, after all.

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Major Rollo Vercollision says:

Re: Oh, look: ANOTHER RARE commentor among the few!

What do you gauge are the odds that an "account" sparsely doing two-liners for six years gets MORE interested in a clearly waning site? … Right. Anyone normal — as evidenced by the hundreds who HAVE left forever — becomes LESS likely to comment the fewer and duller are the articles and the fewer comments.

Besides that, if have the urge to make short pointless remarks (as say, "nasch" does, having topped 13,000 now!), then would have been for some time.

New readers, if any: just look into each account profile and note the high percentage of sparse ones, then try reaching any other conclusion than that Techdirt is astro-turfing to make itself look a bit active instead of clearly dying.

True: 8 (<2), Oct 1st, 2015 https://www.techdirt.com/user/true

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

just look into each account profile and note the high percentage of sparse ones, then try reaching any other conclusion than that Techdirt is astro-turfing to make itself look a bit active instead of clearly dying

How about this conclusion?

“Techdirt has a lot of commenters with accounts who don’t feel the need to regularly comment on the site or comment at great length about a given article.”

I’m on a Discord server that has a bunch of people on it but most of them don’t even post, and several of them only post on a piecemeal basis. Are those users “sockpuppets” only and specifically because of that lack of activity?

You’re so obsessed with this site and Mike Masnick in particular — possibly in a sexual way — that something as innocuous as “irregular commenters” is somehow an insidious overarching plot to embarass you and you alone. You “track” these “zombie” accounts, and when people laugh at you for your overzealousness in beliving your feelings over any facts or far more likely conclusions, you continue railing against the “zombie” accounts anyway because being laughed at only makes you harder.

…to get rid of, I mean.

You’re literally the only person on this entire fucking planet — one out of SEVEN FUCKING BILLION — who both cares about this one little ridiculous idea and obsesses over it to the point of thinking anyone who points out your obsession is trying to kill you or some shit.

Please, Brainy, I beg of you: Get some goddamned therapy. You’ve been trolling this site for a decade because someone quoted Barack Obama at you and you took it as the most personal of attacks. Nobody in their right mind does shit like that.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Occasionally? Regularly is more like it. He literally links people to it multiple times because he thinks it discourages new readers from the site – new readers he doesn’t actually thinks exists, on account of the site dying. So realistically, he’s only reminding the "waning" number of regulars here how he was made fun of a decade ago.

Yeah, I don’t fucking get it either, but blue logic has always required so much contortion that trying to mimic him (like he and his friend with benefits, Jhon Smith, have so often claimed) any such attempt would literally result in eating one’s own fecal matter…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"How many people would go to the effort to track history for 10 years in order to find motivation of, and respond to, a troll?"

No tracking required. Plenty of us veterans here have had to suffer the input of Baghdad Bob for those years. We’ve come to recognize his unique "style" of shitting in a text box and posting the result.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh, look: ANOTHER RARE commentor among the few!

"What do you gauge are the odds that an "account" sparsely doing two-liners for six years gets MORE interested in a clearly waning site?"

100% or more, depending on whether the account holder has just returned from a hiatus or been led to one specific article by having it reposted in a twitter flow or on facebook?

People commenting sparsely or intermittently is, in fact, pretty damn normal.

The way to recognize an astroturfer is by observing tells and style – which is the way that we used to recognize your sock puppets way back when you still tried to use actual accounts, Baghdad Bob.

I’m not sure whether there are any people posting through two or more accounts here on TD among the saner commenters, but we know sure as hell that used to be your own standard MO.

I’ve always interpreted your paranoid ramblings about how Masnick is paid by Google and the CIA to astroturf exclusively against you personally both as delusional and as a confession. Because building one-man armies has always been your own personal signature move.

It’s like with the damn republicans. Every accusation from you, a confession.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Oh, look: ANOTHER RARE commentor among the few!

What kind of miscreant fucking loser spends his time on a "clearly waning site" scrutinizing the frequency that users post?

I’d suggest asking yourself that very question before you inevitably answer it yet again for the rest of us.

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Major Rollo Vercollision says:

Re: Hey there, "ECA": Techdirt's WEIRDEST commentor!

(For anyone new, IF any: "ECA" has for 13 years here done random capitilization and runs of periods schtick, well, lately dropped the latter, and rarely makes sense, so it’s startling to find elsewhere.)

From writing style and screen name, this appears to be Techdirt’s "ECA"!

http://www.dvorak.org/blog/2016/02/25/why-linux-sucks-and-will-never-compete-with-windows-or-osx/#comment-2674610

Can it be the same "ECA"? It’s on-topic and fairly cogent! Maybe "ECA" actually is a uber-geek with no sense outside of computering. Hmm…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hey there, "ECA": Techdirt's WEIRDEST commentor!

I’m not sure what’s funnier – the fact that you’re attacked people for both not posting enough and for posting regularly in the same thread, or that your life is so empty that you’re now trying to stalk people on other sites because you think a post on a 5 year old story might be the same person.

As ever, whether you need to start taking your meds or stop smoking meth, do it.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: IN ALL OF THIS

wasnt there a invoice for Goods received?

Normally, the cops are required to furnish a list of materials taken pursuant to the warrant. That list may be given to the person in charge of the premises or left in a prominent place if there does not appear to be anyone present or in charge.

Not saying that the cops always do that. And certainly I would not want to be charged with claiming that the same Bay County sheriff’s department which appears to have stolen the goods was otherwise prone to comply with the requirements of law.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No bets. I remember him pitching in both specifically on Floyd and on how officers of the law could do no wrong.

Hell, what was it…something about how it was typical for the Techdirt commissars to defend the criminals against the police, or something.

But what would you expect from Baghdad Bob, the guy loudly crowing in glee at the possibilities of prison rape for "aspies"?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt ALWAYS defends drug users and attacks police.

The anomalies are the ones who can and want to challenge the police bullshit in court.

One can roughly know what police seize in a year. And there is no possible way that the property seized belongs to narcolords who would otherwise use said property to fuel legal defenses at their trials. We know this since most of the property seized is not connected with anyone even charged with anything, and also the fact that the average $20-200 is not going to cause a high-powered law firm to even blink in anyone’s direction.

Try again.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

A reminder: This happened before

The holy inquisition really got underway with the combination of seizing civil assets and torturing witnesses to reveal other witches and heretics.

And if I recall correctly, the whole Salem Witch Trials affair was driven by the ability of the town to seize the assets of those who confess.

It all comes back to capitalism.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

So, armed people entered a residence, took their property under the treat of force, then sold it for profit without the consent of the original owner?

Maybe the police would get some of that respect they’re always after if they weren’t involved in committing several felonies in the process of doing their jobs.

John85851 (profile) says:

Accountability

"But the Sheriff’s Office may soon find itself shelling out its own ill-gotten gains to replace the ones it apparently unlawfully took from the plaintiff during its drug warring."

Um, I don’t think the Sheriff’s Office will be the ones to pay- the money will come out of the city taxes, which means the costs will be passed onto the tax-payers And how many taxpayers go through the sheriff’s budget to see that $X have to repaid to people whose items were illegally seized by the police?

In other words, the behavior won’t change unless the police are held accountable. I don’t know- maybe dock the officers’ pay until the items are paid back or put them on suspension without pay.
And before someone says police shouldn’t have to pay back items like this, remember that even the sheriff admitted the items weren’t seized as a part of a crime. If there was no crime, then the items were illegally seized and someone should be held responsible.

Anonymous Coward says:

shopping list...

when ever the blue lies mafia does a raid and then takes what ever they want is nothing more then them going on free shopping spree! ooh this looks expensive lets take it! not related to the crime… no problem, we just loose it in the shuffle, forget to put on an inventory sheet and if it ends up in one our houses then oops we were just holding for safe keeping.
things have gotten so bad that they treat WE THE PEOPLE as there own personal ATM! oh that $200 in your pocket next to your pay stub with bank receipt, must be drug money, so we will relieve you of that il-gotten gains!
or they find a personal amount of drugs. well you must be a drug dealer so we take your house, car, bank account, EVERYTHING of value. nevermind the receipts we found showing you got these items legally. we will file them in the round file so you no longer have proof showing that you got these things legally!
with asset forfeiture being a multi billion dollar business, why would the blue lies mafia want to stop robbing WE THE PEOPLE just to fill there coffers!

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