Monday, March 20, 2017

Thomas wants SCOTUS to review forfeiture laws

Clarence Thomas Is Skeptical of Civil Asset Forfeiture | Cato @ Liberty - Adam Bates:

March 7, 2017 - "Justice Clarence Thomas yesterday signalled that the abusive practice of civil asset forfeiture is ripe for expanded constitutional scrutiny.

"The case is Lisa Olivia Leonard v. Texas.  James Leonard (the petitioner’s son) was stopped by police for a traffic infraction in 2013 'along a known drug corridor.'  Police searched Mr. Leonard’s vehicle and discovered a safe containing $201,100 and the bill of sale for a home. Arguing that the money was either proceeds from a drug sale or going to be used in such a sale, the state initiated forfeiture proceedings and took the money.  The safe actually belonged to James’ mother Lisa, who brought suit to protect her property from the government seizure.

"The Supreme Court denied certiorari for procedural reasons, but Justice Thomas had some harsh words for civil forfeiture anyway, and suggested that it’s time for the Supreme Court to take another look at the practice:
Civil proceedings often lack certain procedural protections that accompany criminal proceedings.... Partially as a result of this distinct legal regime, civil forfeiture has in recent decades become widespread and highly profitable....

This system - where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use - has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses…
"The opinion goes on to explain that while the court has historically upheld the constitutionality of civil forfeiture, the modern practice of forfeiture has strayed far from its narrow historical use and purpose:
Historical forfeiture laws were narrower in most respects than modern ones.... Proceeding in rem in those cases was often justified by necessity, because the party responsible for the crime was frequently ... beyond the personal jurisdiction of the United States courts [and] typically covered only the instrumentalities of the crime (such as the vessel used to transport the goods)....
"In his opinion, Justice Thomas refers to the Institute for Justice’s Policing for Profit survey of forfeiture laws around the country, and also to Sarah Stillman’s expose Taken, documenting several instances of forfeiture abuse. Both of those sources are worth reading for a better idea of just how bad the incentives of civil forfeiture are and the abuses that have resulted.

"It’s heartening to have a Supreme Court Justice so squarely acknowledge and raise questions about a predatory government practice that has proceeded unchecked for so long."

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1 comment:

  1. CAF needs correcting and squarely placed back under the protections of the Bill of Rights.
    The farther we allow government to drift from the confines of the BOR the more likely plunder, rampant abuse and downright tyranny becomes!
    Good stuff. Thanks for the article and links.
    Trump needs a better "education" on the CAF issue.