Alabama Police Use Asset Forfeiture to Ruin an Innocent Small Business Owner


A news report from Alabama offers two textbook cases of how sweeping powers of civil asset forfeiture allow police to seize people’s property with near impunity.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can take property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not charged with a crime. Law enforcement and prosecutors say the practice is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by targeting ill-gotten gains. But in state after state, horror stories have emerged of regular people having their possessions expropriated and their lives turned upside down.

In the Alabama case, around 20 heavily armed officers raided Frank Ranelli’s computer repair shop in Ensley in 2010, on a tip that Ranelli was selling stolen goods. Police seized roughly 130 computers from the shop, most of them belonging to customers.

The Alabama news outlet Al.com reports what happened next:

Nothing ever came of the case. The single charge of receiving stolen goods was dismissed after Ranelli demonstrated that he had followed proper protocol in purchasing the sole laptop computer he was accused of receiving illegally.

Yet none of the property seized by police that summer morning more than seven years ago has been returned to him.

“Here I was, a man, owned this business, been coming to work every day like a good old guy for 23 years, and I show up at work that morning—I was in here doing my books from the day before—and the police just f***ed my life,” he said.

Ranelli has been fighting ever since to get his property back. But at least he got to keep his house. The same story documents the case of Cherie Marceaux, whose boyfriend was arrested in 2005 for selling marijuana to an undercover police officer. A subsequent search of their house turned up more pot. Marceaux pled guilty to possession and received probation, but police weren’t done with her:

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Sessions Sees Civil-asset Forfeiture as “Key Tool” for Law Enforcement

During an address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Philadelphia on October 23, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (shown) said he has designated the brutal MS-13 gang as a priority for the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. While conservatives will applaud that effort, a second proposal included in Sessions’ speech will infuriate constitutionalists.

Sessions observed that our state and local partners in law enforcement are our strongest allies, our greatest resources, and that they deserve his department’s support.

If he had ended there, there would have been few problems, but he went on to say:

That’s why, in July, we reinstituted our adoptive sharing program, ensuring that criminals will not be permitted to profit from their crimes. As President Trump knows well, civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels. In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives.

Sessions explained that the Justice Department is establishing a department to oversee civil-asset forfeiture in order to “maintain public confidence.” (This sounds more like a public-relations program to diffuse the inevitable objections to civil-asset forfeiture that are likely to arise from people across the political spectrum, from libertarians to constitutionalists to classical liberals.) Sessions stated, “I directed Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to appoint a Director of Asset Forfeiture Accountability to oversee the Department’s asset forfeiture program and ensure no errors or overreach.”

The New American has published two articles this year that included sound arguments that civil-asset forfeiture is in violation of constitutional principles. “Is Tide Turning Against Civil Asset Forfeiture?”(June 2017) cited a highly-respected constitutionalist:

One person particularly aghast at the injustices associated with civil asset forfeiture is U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, who began questioning the legality of civil asset forfeiture in 1993, only two years after he had taken his place on the High Court, in the case of U.S. v. James Daniel Good Real Property. Five years after Good had completed a prison sentence for drug possession, federal marshals seized his home in Hawaii, without any notice or legal proceedings. Thomas opined that he was “disturbed by the breadth of new civil-forfeiture statues,” and he and other justices ruled in favor of Good.

The second article, posted in September, personally addressed the source of today’s discussion on CAF — Attorney General Sessions.


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Source Article from http://govtslaves.info/2017/10/sessions-sees-civil-asset-forfeiture-as-key-tool-for-law-enforcement/

No Forfeiture-Database Backup With Millions on the Line, NYPD Admits


MANHATTAN — New York City is one power surge away from losing all of the data police have on millions of dollars in unclaimed forfeitures, a city attorney admitted to a flabbergasted judge on Tuesday.

“That’s insane,” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arlene Bluth said repeatedly from the bench.

This morning’s revelation stems from a request filed in 2014 by the nonprofit group Bronx Defenders under New York’s Freedom of Information Law.

In the previous fiscal year, Bronx Defenders noted, the NYPD reported seizing more than $6 million in cash and property. Intermingled with the open forfeitures from past years, this meant that the NYPD a balance sheet of more than $68 million in seized currency in any given month in 2013.

Bronx Defenders wants to study department records on the forfeitures, but city attorney Neil Giovanatti has argued that the NYPD lacks the technical capability to extract information from its forfeiture database.

Judge Bluth appeared gobsmacked Tuesday to hear about the precarious position of data in the police department’s PETS database, short for Property and Evidence Tracking System.

“Do you want the Daily News to be reporting that you have no copy of the data?” Bluth asked Giovanatti.

“That deserves an exposé in the New York Times,” the judge added later.

Giovanatti struggled to assuage Bluth’s concerns. “He says the database is in IBM,” the attorney said when asked whether any NYPD personnel understand that system’s back end.

An expert for the Bronx Defenders undermined this point in an affidavit to the court.

“Based on the information I have reviewed about the technical specifications of PETS’s hardware and software, it is my opinion that it is technologically feasible to retrieve much of the data sought from PETS by running queries directly on the underlying [IBM] DB2 database,” said Robert Pesner, a former chief enterprise architect for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

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Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics






Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics


October 17th, 2017

Via: The Intercept:

AN INTERNAL HANDBOOK obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.

HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,� dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions� and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.� It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.

ICE confirmed to The Intercept that the handbook reflects the agency’s most up-to-date guidance on asset forfeiture. Agents under its instruction are asked to weigh the competing priorities of law enforcement versus financial profit and to “not waste instigative time and resources� on assets it calls “liabilities� — which include properties that are not profitable enough for the federal government to justify seizing. “As a general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the value of the property, the property should not be seized,� the document states.

The handbook also instructs ICE agents on the various ways laws can be used to justify the seizure of a property, and devotes a significant portion of its pages to the seizure of real estate. The manual instructs agents seeking to seize a property to work with confidential informants, scour tax records, and even obtain an interception warrant to determine whether “a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity� in order to justify seizing the property.

The handbook acknowledges that civil forfeiture can be used to take property from a person even when there’s not enough evidence for a criminal indictment.















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[WATCH] Police Officer Uses “Civil Forfeiture” To Steal All Of The Money Out Of A Hot Dog Vendor’s Wallet

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Session’s Perverse Asset Forfeiture Without Constitution’s 5th. Amendment “Due Process”: Deep State Framework For Totalitarian Police State

Fed collusion with State Highway Patrol & City Police ~ The Forfeiture Scheme Without The 5th. Amendment “Due Process”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions should reconsider his plan to expand the use of civil asset forfeiture in the service of the so-called war on drugs. If he fails to do so, Congress should reconsider it for him — indeed, Congress ought to act on asset-forfeiture reform irrespective of the attorney general’s views on the matter. Asset forfeiture is a constitutionally questionable practice whereby property — often cash — is taken from citizens by police agencies who suspect, or at least say they suspect, that the property may have been come by illegally, often through the drug trade.

Cash seized through asset forfeiture can be used by police departments, as can cash generated through the sales of seized property such as vehicles. The fact that police personnel can materially benefit from forfeiture proceedings creates a conflict of interest that would render forfeiture problematic even if it were used with discretion in accordance with the highest degree of procedural protections for the rights of the accused. It isn’t.

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There is such a thing as criminal forfeiture, but what is at issue is mainly civil forfeiture, meaning property seizures that are conducted under civil law rather than the criminal-justice process, which has more robust protections and higher standards of evidence.

This produces perverse outcomes in which American citizens are punished by their government for crimes with which they have not even been charged, much less convicted. In the past decade, the Drug Enforcement Administration alone has seized some $3 billion in cash from people who have not been charged with any crime.

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This is almost certainly unconstitutional, something that conservatives ought to understand instinctively. Like the Democrats’ crackpot plan to revoke the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens who have been neither charged with nor convicted of a crime simply for having been fingered as suspicious persons by some anonymous operative in Washington, seizing an American’s property because a police officer merely suspects that he might be a drug dealer or another species of miscreant does gross violence to the basic principle of due process.

  1. Senate Reports NARCO Bank HSBC Helped Deep State Drug Cartels Launder Money

No doubt many of the men and women on the terrorism watch list are genuine bad guys, and no doubt many of those who have lost their property to asset forfeiture are peddling dope. But we are a nation of laws, which means a nation of procedural justice.

5th. amendment

If the DEA or the LAPD wants to punish a drug trafficker, then let them build a case, file charges, and see the affair through to a conviction. We have no objection to seizing the property of those convicted of drug smuggling — or of crimes related to terrorism, or many other kinds of offenses. We object, as all Americans should object, to handing out these punishments in the absence of a criminal conviction.

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The specific issue here mainly touches on Sessions’s plan to revoke certain Obama-era restrictions on asset forfeiture. In response to the general unjustness of asset forfeiture and specific cases of abuse associated with it, many states have limited the use of the process, and 13 of them require an actual criminal conviction before seizing assets.

But the federal government offered police agencies operating under more restrictive state rules an out in the form of cooperative seizures — “equitable sharing,” they call it — under which federal authorities accepted seized assets in a cooperative capacity and then shared them with local agencies.

Which is to say, the federal government set up a program of official money-laundering in order to make an end run around state laws. Cute, that. The Obama-era reforms cut back on that, and Sessions means to return to the status quo ante as part of an aggressive new campaign to expand the use of forfeiture against drug traffickers.

Which is to say, conservatives should object to this on due-process grounds and on Tenth Amendment grounds — if the states wish to restrict the use of asset forfeiture, then Washington has no business interfering.

Conservatives, and all Americans, also should object to the abuses of forfeiture that have been well documented for years. See, for example, the “Policing for Profit” report from our friends at the Institute for Justice.

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We admire a great deal about Jeff Sessions, but his determination to prove an atavistic drug warrior is lamentable.

But the case against asset forfeiture need not be restricted to those who take a libertarian view of drug decriminalization. The question here is not the legal status of marijuana but the legal status of due-process protections, as well as the ability of the states to decide for themselves how their law-enforcement agencies will conduct their business.

We hope that the attorney general sees the light on this issue. But even if that is unlikely, we know Jeff Sessions to be a man with a deep commitment to the law, which is why Congress ought to act on its own to legislatively restrict the use of civil forfeiture at the federal level and to prohibit “equitable sharing” shenanigans outright.

No American should be deprived of liberty or property without due process, and the process due in these cases — which are predicated on underlying criminal activity — is a criminal trial rather than a civil action.

National Review

Donald Trump’s Confusion On Drug Forfeiture vs Civilian Forfeiture and impounding vs forfeiture.

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Source Article from https://politicalvelcraft.org/2017/08/01/sessions-perverse-asset-forfeiture-without-constitutions-5th-amendment-due-process-deep-state-framework-for-totalitarian-police-state/