My Cato colleague, Walter Olson, has a nice roundup on civil asset forfeiture news and posts over at Overlawyered.
For more, view this Cato event.
100 years ago, the great champion of liberty, Milton Friedman, was born. Thus, it is an appropriate day to recall some of his words about the American criminal justice system, particularly the drug war.
Here is Dr. Friedman’s foreword to my book, After Prohibition:
This book contains revised versions of papers given at a conference on “Beyond Prohibition: An Adult approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century,” held at the Cato Institute on October 5, 1999. The papers presented range widely over all aspects of current drug policy. The final two chapters record a debate held at the conference on whetherAmerica should legalize drugs.
Whatever your view about that issue, I believe that you cannot read this book without recognizing the social tragedy that has resulted from the attempt to prohibit people from ingesting an arbitrary list of substances designated “illegal drugs.” That list includes marijuana, for which there is no recorded case of human death from overdose in several thousand years of use and which has important medicinal uses, but excludes alcohol, which also has important medicinal uses but for which the annual death toll in theUnited Statesalone is measured in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. Not since the collapse of the attempt to prohibit the ingestion of alcohol has our liberty been in such danger from the misnamed “war on drugs.”
How can there be a war on drugs? Can there be a war on stones, on buildings, on aspirin? Surely, wars are on living, not inanimate, objects. And this war is being waged on people. Like every war, it is being waged in wanton disregard of “Life,Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”-”unalienable rights” with which we are endowed by our Creator, according to the Declaration of Independence.
As a nation, we have been destroying foreign countries because we cannot enforce our own laws. As a nation, we have been responsible for the murder of literally hundreds of thousands of people at home and abroad by fighting a war that should never have been started and can be won, if at all, only by converting theUnited Statesinto a police state. The annual arrest of nearly a million and a half people suspected of a drug offense, most of them for simple possession of small quantities, is frightening evidence of how far along that road we have already gone. So too is the overcrowding of our prisons, despite an unprecedented increase in capacity, leading to the release of persons convicted of violent crimes in order to make room for persons convicted of a drug offense and given minimum required sentences. Minimum required sentences that are sometimes so harsh that at least one judge has resigned rather than be the instrument for imposing cruel and inhumane punishment, and numerous other judges have registered strong protests (see chapter 8). So too is the fact, noted by Nova University law professor Steven Wisotsky, that “law enforcement officials-now joined by the military forces of the United States-have the power, with few limits, to snoop, sniff, survey, and detain, without warrant or probable cause, in the war against drug trafficking. Property may be seized on slight evidence and forfeited to the state or federal government without proof of the personal guilt of the owner….[and] and increasingly imperial federal government has applied intimidating pressures to shop owners and others in the private sector to help implement federal drug policy.
Why is it that laws against the ingestion of a class of substances have proved to be so much greater a threat to our freedom than laws against theft, assault, and murder? The answer is simple. Persons who have been harmed by theft, assault, and murder have a strong incentive to report the crime to law enforcement officials. There is a clear and evident victim. Enforcement of the law is a cooperative enterprise that enlists the assistance of the persons harmed.
By contrast, when a willing seller and a willing buyer transfer a substance that has been designated illegal, no one has an incentive to report what the law in its majesty has declared a crime. NO on has a direct incentive to cooperate with law enforcement officials. Evidence must be obtained in other ways, such as the use of informers-a practice that every totalitarian state has engaged in when it made it a crime to hold or publish the “wrong” beliefs, a crime that willing participants have no incentive to report. The Nazis and the Communists alike encouraged children to spy on and report their parents for “crimes against the state,” and so does the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (see chapter 10).
The lack of anyone who has a direct incentive to report an offense is also the reason drug enforcers are driven to warrantless searches, seizures of property without due process, and all of the other violations of civil liberties that have become so common in the relentless prosecution of the drug war.
The high financial stakes enhance the danger to our liberty. The produce widespread corruption, which requires the use of ever more resources to monitor the monitors, and enable drug dealers to finance armies and arms not obviously inferior to the armies and arms of the drug warriors. Only the well-financed and well-armed drug dealers can survive, with the ironic result that our drug enforcement efforts protect the major drug cartels from competition-more effectively than the OPEC cartel was ever able to protect itself from competition!
Law enforcement agencies are major beneficiaries of the drug war at the same time that law enforcement is a major victim. The agencies benefit from the many billions of dollars spent on pursuing the drug war and from the proceeds of forfeiture, an increasingly attractive and lucrative source of funds. Law enforcement suffers because the attempt to enforce laws against victimless crime breaks the link between law enforcers and the community; widespread corruption engendered by the vast sums at stake destroys the trust between police and public that is essential for the proper enforcement of the law (see chapter 7). Moreover, though total expenditures on law enforcement has increased greatly, so large a fraction goes to the drug war that less is available to enforce the laws against theft, assault and murder.
The Declaration of Independence tells us that “governments are instituted among men” in order “to secure” “certain unalienable rights” and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” A nanny government has become destructive of these ends. It is past time that we alter it.
September 8, 2000
Ever so slowly, policymakers are starting to come around on this subject.
For more info about the legacy of Milton Friedman, check out the Cato Institute home page.
From CBS News:
A New Mexico woman who says she doesn’t remember checking out either the “Twilight” book or the two-DVD movie set from the library had to endure her own Twilight saga.
She was arrested in front of her children and spent a night in jail for not returning the materials to the library.
The Albuquerque Journal reports Lori Teel was arrested and handcuffed at her Portales home in front of her five small children earlier this month for the $36 worth of ‘Twilight’ items that had gone unreturned since 2010.
A summons would have been the appropriate response here.
With all the buzz and anticipation surrounding the final rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court the past week, there has been little attention to an interesting legal development in New Hampshire: On June 18, Governor John Lynch (no relation) signed HB 146 into law and it becomes effective on January 1, 2013. HB 146 concerns “the right of a jury to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.” It’s popularly known as “the jury nullification bill.” In this post, I will try to explain what impact this new law may have in the New Hampshire courts.
That these jokers will be making over $260k off of my idea and hard work.
I really cannot express how much of a blow it is to me that all these years of hard work that went into creating this project and running it, let alone all the sacrifice it took to keep it going through some tough times, is going to be stolen by these guys with support from the US government.
I can’t really see any point of keeping this project going right now when all I’m doing by working myself to death with it is making it easier for those people to sponge off that work to rake in tax dollars.
I’m going to take a few days off to figure this out… meanwhile, here’s a poll to see if any of you can see any real reason to keep this going now.
The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) “Worst Police Misconduct Video of the Year” readers poll is part an examination of how our readers view police misconduct and part effort to garner more interest into the issues of police misconduct, transparency, and accountability.
Though so many of the thousands of cases we cover each year are bad even when they don’t include video of the incident, we pick about 20 each year that did have publicly accessible video associated with their cases and ask our readers to vote for the worst… and this is the third year we’ve run the poll.
There are no awards, prize packets, or even fake gotcha trophies in this contest that, ultimately, has no real winners. Just the shameful knowledge that hundreds of people decided that the officers involved took part in the worst example of police misconduct immortalized on video in the year of 2011.
With that said, here are the results of our poll:
The fifth worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 67 Votes (15%)
The fourth worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 77 Votes (17%)
The third worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 78 Votes (17%)
The second worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 131 Votes (29%)
The Worst Police Misconduct Video of 2011 – 227 Votes (49%)
Visit here to see all the video candidates and full results of the poll.
Results from the previous Worst Police Misconduct Video Reader’s Polls can be found at the following locations:
Worst Police Misconduct Videos of 2010
Worst Police Misconduct Videos of 2009
Sorry folks, no recap for this weekend. Between being at work for 20 hours this weekend and a raging toothache I was only able to track three reports so I figured I’ll add those to Monday’s count for a three-day recap tomorrow night.
Sorry for the delay on the review.
We hope everyone has a great holiday season and we’re very thankful for everyone’s continued support and interest in our project. The news feed will not be updating today and there won’t be a daily review this evening. All reports found for today will be reported in the news feed tomorrow and in tomorrow’s daily recap.
So, have a safe and happy thanksgiving out there!
So, I got a little tired of doing work all the time, decided to do some photoshopping instead and made a poster riffing off of the DHS “See Something” ad campaign. It also takes a subtle swipe at states that try to outlaw filming police in public. I was going to put some sponsor logos like the poster I based it off of had, but since we’re not really affiliated with anyone it’s blank space for now. The images are screen captures from a few of the videos we’ve tracked.
*Note: I’ve updated it based on some feedback, you can click on the image for the full-size version and the original is still here as well.
*UPDATE: Per a few requests I’ve added the poster to our online storefront. Of course, you don’t have to buy it to use it, just print it out on your own or modify it as needed. Sure, we always need donations, but we only make a small percentage of each sale so it won’t hurt us if you use the poster in other ways… think of it as a public service. So, if you don’t have time to get it printed on your own, go ahead and order a few from our store.
So, what do you think? Like it? Hate It? Let me know below: