Thursday, February 12, 2015

Civil Asset Forfeiture (Legal Theft) Legislative Workshop

"Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need."
Ephesians 4:28

Texas State Capitol -- Earlier this evening, Texans for Accountable Government held a training session to discuss Civil Asset Forfeiture, a practice where law enforcement can confiscate citizen's property without charging them with a crime (let alone a conviction).  Experts from TPPF and the ACLU spoke.  Videos are below:

Michael Searle (TAG):

  • Police have a built in incentive to accuse (but not charge) you with a crime in order to confiscate property.
  • Used extensively during prohibition but really took off with the war on drugs.

  • Roots of forfeiture are in the Roman empire.
  • A lot of the research that's been done doesn't have major statistical foundation.
  • Under suspicion of a crime, police can seize property.
  • There was watered down Federal reform in 2000.
  • Obama's new A.G. calls forfeiture "an invaluable tool."
  • Law enforcement and D.A.'s benefit from forfeiture.
  • NO BILLS HAVE BEEN FILED that would require a conviction before forfeiture can take place.

  • Two counties seized $3 million in East TX from 2006 - 08.
    • Victims were exclusively Black and Hispanic.
  • There probably shouldn't be work-arounds on the fourth amendment.
  • It was A LOT worse five years ago.
  • 2011 reforms were a good start, but there's more we can do.
  • Lower income folks are more likely to have large sums of cash on them.
  • Legislators will say we don't have 'civil asset forfeiture' in Texas.
    • Technically, it's criminal forfeiture under a civil standard of evidence.
    • That's still an excuse.
  • Prosecutors and Law Enforcement will fight like heck to keep the money coming in.

  • Stories like these are why conservatives believe in limited government.
  • In recent years, some states have attempted to expand forfeiture.
  • This session, improving threshold and reporting would be major progress.
  • Always go for reporting bills if you can get them; they lay the foundation for future success.
  • Decriminalizing non-violent criminal offenses will create a smaller potential pot.
  • Equitable sharing usurps the ability of the state to police itself by the Feds.
  • If 10% of victims fought these cases, they'd no longer be profitable for law enforcement.

  • Spending too much money on police is the root of the problem.
  • No knock raids are the biggest way people get hurt.
  • Body cameras have A LOT of issues.
    • Might help, but VERY expensive.
  • ISD's in Texas are authorized to have police departments.
  • "It's not that this money is being spent on the wrong thing, it's that it shouldn't exist."

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