National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

The Civil Forfeiture Racket

From Reason.com:

Jerrie Brathwaite was not in her car when Washington, D.C. police seized it in January 2012. She had lent her 2000 Nissan Maxima to a friend, and that friend was pulled over, searched, and found to be in possession of drugs. A year later, Braithwaite—who has never been charged with a crime—still doesn’t have her car back, and no one from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will return her calls. …

In theory, the government uses asset forfeiture to strip criminal enterprises of resources and “toys”—the cars, planes, boats, and homes that make the illicit life look glamorous. But a glance at the legal notices the department publishes periodically in The Washington Times reveals the city is hardly targeting kingpins. A notice from last September lists these cars: a 1985 Chevrolet, a 1994 BMW, a 1999 Lincoln, a 1994 Lexus, a 1991 Honda, and a 2001 Chevrolet. Most seizures are of cash—generally less than $100 and as little as $7—taken from thousands of people each year.

“Many of these clients don’t have money, don’t have assets, some are innocent,” says criminal defense lawyer Henry Escoto, who is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the city. “Many times just because police arrest somebody for possession of a controlled substance doesn’t necessarily mean that the money they have on them came from illegal proceeds. It could be many of these guys have jobs and get caught with rent money or their paycheck. That’s pretty significant.”

By law, the MPD must notify property owners of their constitutional right to challenge a forfeiture, but it recently emerged in court that up to 2,000 of the 3,000 property owners who had property seized in 2009 may not have received notice.

H/T: Instapundit.   For additional background, go here.

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