Prohibition is Power

Prohibition is Power

My criminal justice clients sometimes ask my opinion on why the government likes to prohibit and regulate things that don't seem to do much social harm.  The most common example is marijuana, but there are all sorts of government regulations that don't seem to serve much of a purpose.  

But ALL government regulations serve the same purpose of giving the government more power.  Here's a quote from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) where Dr. Ferris is explaining to Hank Reardon why the government wants to regulate his business and others as much as possible:  

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.” 
 
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged 
 
Prohibition doesn't need a reason.  Prohibition IS the reason. Criminalizing marijuana provides police with a reason to stop, frisk and arrest people.  It's no different than making about everything you do on the road a traffic violation of some kind so that the police have an excuse to pull you over anytime they want.  Police really don't care if one of your three tag lights aren't working.  They just want to use that as an excuse to pull you over and interrogate you for something else (DUI, drugs, etc..).  It's a facade, and everyone knows it.
 
For the client, here's what that means:  If you think you're going to go to court and say, "But Judge, it's no big deal.  Why does the government care about these things?" and have your case dismissed, you're wrong.  Government writes and selectively enforces laws for reasons that the average person on the street never understands.
 
NEVER go to court without a lawyer.
Continue reading
3529 Hits
0 Comments

Did the US Supreme Court Ignite a Rash of No-Knock Raids?

Did the US Supreme Court Ignite a Rash of No-Knock Raids?

Prior to 2006, if the police raided your home they had to prove that the raid was executed in the proper manner.  If it wasn't, then the evidence they found might not be admissible in court. 

In 2006, the United States Supreme Court issued Hudson v. Michigan.  In that case, a regular search warrant for Hudson's home was executed as  'no-knock" warrant.  The question for the court was whether the police could still use what they found, even though they did not execute the warrant properly.  The Supreme Court ruled that they could. 

After that opinion, I wondered why any police force anywhere would bother knocking ever again.  There's no benefit to police by knocking, and now the Supreme Court has said that even if the police do not knock, they still get to use what they find to convict the homeowner.

Since Hudson, it seems like we have seen a rash of botched no-knock raids that have resulted in innocent people getting shot and/or disfigured.  I wonder whether the Supreme Court opened the door to this or whether other forces were at play.  Or both. 

Your thoughts?

And no discussion of no-knock raids would be complete without Lindy's somber "No Knock Raid."

Continue reading
3816 Hits
0 Comments

Forsyth County Forfeits an Entire House

Forsyth County Forfeits an Entire House

Drug forfeitures are usually relatively small.  The police might forfeit the cash someone has in their wallet or automobile or the automobile itself, but rarely do you see an entire house forfeited without a fight.  But that's apparently exactly what happened in Forsyth County:

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is now the owner of a single-family home in west Forsyth, whose former residents the agency described as repeat drug offenders.

According to the sheriff’s office, Forsyth County Superior Court awarded it the two-story, 2,500-square-foot home in Sawnee View Farms on Oct. 29.

The house, which has a basement and sits on a half-acre lot, has been valued at about $258,000, according to county tax records.

The sheriff’s office believes this is the first time in recent memory that a house has been given to the county based on criminal activity.

But there is a catch: 

Despite the sheriff’s office taking ownership of the home, the agency still must undergo legal eviction proceedings to expel the people living in what he characterized as a “transient drug house.”

The home will eventually be put on the market, hopefully with an agent, but Piper said the sale will yield little, if any, profit.

The agency must first pay of the liens and mortgages against the property, which total about half the value of the house, he said. They will also pay the costs of the required legal proceedings.

Any remaining money would be handled through the legal guidelines of drug seizure funds.

The home was awarded to the sheriff’s office in a consent judgment, which states Wheeler agreed to forfeit the property.

That's highly unusual, which makes me think there is more to this story than meets the eye.  I can imagine what that might be, but it wouldn't be appropriate for me to speculate.

 

Continue reading
3885 Hits
0 Comments

War on Drugs Claims Another Officer's Life

War on Drugs Claims Another Officer's Life

In Ogden, Utah, the War on Drugs has claimed the life of another officer.  

The tip about the marijuana plants came from an ex-girlfriend of Stewart's named Stacy Wilson. They had dated for about a year and a half but broke up in the summer of 2010. Erna Stewart introduced them. "I still feel guilty about that," she says. "He caught her cheating on him, they broke up, and it ended really badly. She was angry with him. He was heartbroken. She tried to get him fired from his job. She really had it out for him."

. . .

According to police documents, Wilson called the tip line in November 2010, two months before the raid, and spoke with Officer Jason Vanderwarf. Vanderwarf visited Stewart's house three times, but no one answered. After finding what he described as signs of a marijuana grow, however, he filed an affidavit to get the warrant.

That appears to be the extent of the investigation. The police never ran a background check on Wilson to assess her credibility. In fact, after their initial conversation, Vanderwarf said that he was "unable to contact her." He later told investigators that "She kinda fell off the face of the earth."

While there has been outrage over the death of the officer and the wounding of five others, there is also outrage over the use of military-style, life-or-death tactics employed in response to a victimless, non-violent crime such as growing marijuana. 

In the months following the raid, a number of other controversial police actions hit the news. Police in Salt Lake City broke into the home of a 76-year-old woman during a mistaken drug raid. A SWAT team in Ogden went to the wrong address in search of a man who had gone AWOL from the Army and ended up pointing its guns at an innocent family of four. Two narcotics detectives shot and killed a young woman in a suburb of Salt Lake City as she sat in her car.

Together, these incidents have spawned a budding police reform movement in Utah. At the head of it, Stewart's family members have been joined by a political odd couple: Jesse Fruhwirth, a longtime progressive activist rabble-rouser, and Connor Boyack, a wonky libertarian with a background in Republican politics. And independently, in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, the police chief and lead prosecutor have already begun to adopt some unconventional, reform-minded approaches to crime and punishment.

In the Ken Burns documentary "Prohibition", Burns interviews the son of a law enforcement officer shot and killed in an alcohol raid during Prohibition, just a few years before alcohol was re-legalized.  I would wager that years from now, the loved ones of this officer will look back and question why officers were expected to risk their lives over something like marijuana prohibition.  Applying a cost-benefit analysis, I question whether it is worth it.

This is one of a six-part series on the Utah movement to reform aggressive police tactics in drug cases.  

Continue reading
4211 Hits
0 Comments

"War on Drugs" Employs Forced Colonoscopy and Enema

"War on Drugs" Employs Forced Colonoscopy and Enema

These New Mexico officers really dig for the truth.  

David Eckert, 54, spent more than 12 hours in custody last January at a police station and local hospital after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Yet he was never charged, nor did authorities find illicit substances on him.

. . . 

After Eckert was pulled over, a Deming police officer said that he saw Eckert "was avoiding eye contact with me," his "left hand began to shake," and he stood "erect (with) his legs together," the affidavit stated.

Eckert was told he could go home after a third officer issued him a traffic citation. But before he did, Eckert voluntarily consented to a search of him and his vehicle, the affidavit states. A K-9 dog subsequently hit on a spot in the Dodge's driver's seat, though no drugs were found.


. . . 

Eckert was then put in "investigative detention" and transported around 2 p.m. to the Deming Police Department.

Sometime after that, a judge signed off a search warrant "to include but not limited to his anal cavity."

The next stop was Gila Regional Medical Center, where the lawsuit states "no drugs were found" in "an x-ray and two digital searches of his rectum by two different doctors." One doctor at this time found nothing unusual in his stool.

Three enemas were conducted on Eckert after 10:20 p.m. A chest X-ray followed, succeeded by a colonoscopy around 1:25 a.m.

After all this, "no drugs were found in or on Plaintiff's person."

I wonder how much taxpayer dollars were spent here to go after an amount of drugs no larger than will fit in the human colon.  That's going to be at most a misdemeanor amount of marijuana or a few grams of cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.  Was it worth it?

Additionally, never, ever, ever consent to a search.  It can't help and it can only hurt.  Never do it.

Here's another take.  

Read More:

 $teakley's Golden Rules

Cops Raid Home; Find Fruit

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

TN Lawmakers Investigating "Policing for Profit"

How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

Top Ten Ways to Damage Your Criminal Case

Continue reading
4276 Hits
0 Comments

Former Atlanta Braves Outfielder Otis Nixon Arrested - Again

Former Atlanta Braves Outfielder Otis Nixon Arrested - Again

Yahoo News reports that former Atlanta Braves outfielder Otis Nixon has been arrested for drugs in Cherokee County:

Nixon was pulled over just after midnight Saturday after another driver called police to report a Dodge Ram truck weaving all over the road, according to an incident report from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. The 54-year-old remained in jail Monday afternoon on $11,880 bond.

Officers found a pipe for smoking crack cocaine in Nixon's pants pocket and found a suspected crack rock in the driver's seat, the report says. They later found another pipe and more suspected crack rocks in the floor board of the driver's side, as well as other paraphernalia.

A sheriff's deputy arrested Nixon on charges of possession of cocaine and possession of a drug-related object. It wasn't immediately clear Monday whether Nixon had a lawyer.

Nixon told officers he was driving a friend home and didn't believe he was weaving. He told the sheriff's deputy that the substance officers found in the car was crack cocaine but said the pipes and drugs belonged to his son and that he had been planning to get rid of the pipe.

Officers conducted field sobriety tests and determined Nixon wasn't under the influence of crack cocaine or alcohol.

During my tenure as a Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney, I prosecuted Mr. Nixon for an Aggravated Assault charge at a low-rent Gwinnett hotel, which I recall as stemming from a dispute over crack cocaine.

Mr. Nixon was very pleasant and friendly in court.  He was respectful and conducted himself with humble decorum, gladly signing autographs for a few court personnel.  He appeared then to be a good person dealing with a very bad drug addiction, and he knew it. 

But that was then and this is now.  I wish him well.

TMZ has the story.

AJC has the story.

MDJ has the story.

Continue reading
4376 Hits
0 Comments

Cops Raid Home; Find Fruit

Not much different than the Gwinnett County man who had his home raided for his own indoor garden, a Kansas couple has gotten a tough lesson in the War on Drugs and how none of us are safe

Two former CIA employees whose Kansas home was fruitlessly searched for marijuana during a two-state drug sweep claim they were illegally targeted, possibly because they had bought indoor growing supplies to raise vegetables.

. . .

April 20 long has been used by marijuana enthusiasts to celebrate the illegal drug and more recently by law enforcement for raids and crackdowns. But the Hartes' attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said she suspects the couple's 1,825-square-foot split level was targeted because they had bought hydroponic equipment to grow a small number of tomatoes and squash plants in their basement.

"With little or no other evidence of any illegal activity, law enforcement officers make the assumption that shoppers at the store are potential marijuana growers, even though the stores are most commonly frequented by backyard gardeners who grow organically or start seedlings indoors," the couple's lawsuit says.

How are these officers getting search warrants with no evidence of illegal activity?  The article should name the judge that issued the warrant and print the affidavit upon which it was issued.  But it gets worse:

"If this can happen to us and we are educated and have reasonable resources, how does somebody who maybe hasn't led a perfect life supposed to be free in this country?" Adlynn Harte said in an interview Friday.

Excellent question, Ms. Harte.

The suit filed in Johnson County District Court said the couple and their two children — a 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son — were "shocked and frightened" when deputies armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests pounded on the door of their home around 7:30 a.m. last April 20.

I'll bet they were.  Is this the same sort of "home invasion" the police are supposed to protect people from?

"It was just like on the cops TV shows," Robert Harte told The Associated Press. "It was like 'Zero Dark Thirty' ready to storm the compound."

Much like the local Gwinnett County case, police found nothing but edible fruits and became hostile and accusatory when it became obvious they wouldn't find anything:

When law enforcement arrived, the family had just six plants — three tomato plants, one melon plant and two butternut squash plants — growing in the basement, Harte said.

What do these police have against tasty indoor fruits?

The suit also said deputies "made rude comments" and implied their son was using marijuana. A drug-sniffing dog was brought in to help, but deputies ultimately left after providing a receipt stating, "No items taken."

Pilate said no one in the Harte family uses illegal drugs and no charges were filed. The lawsuit noted Adlynn Harte, who works for a financial planning firm, and Robert Harte, who cares for the couple's children, each were required to pass rigorous background checks for their previous jobs working for the CIA in Washington, D.C. Pilate said she couldn't provide any other details about their CIA employment.

Preventing these things would be alot easier if more courts would allow aggrieved citizens to sue the officers individually.

Continue reading
4601 Hits
0 Comments

US DEA Can't Crack Apple iMessages (Yet)

US DEA Can't Crack Apple iMessages (Yet)

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency is mad they can't crack Apple iMessages, even with a search warrant.  Why?  Because Apple iMessages sent from Apple-to-Apple devices are not traditional text messages, and they are encrypted. 

iMessages are encrypted messages that can be sent between Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and even Macs running the OS X platform. The service launched with iOS 5 in 2011and Apple publicly revealed that all sent and received iMessages would be securely encrypted.

DEA officials first discovered that iMessages could be a hinderance to their efforts when a real-time electronic surveillance under the Federal Wiretap Act failed to yield all of a target's text messages. The agency then discovered that the person was using iMessage, which bypassed the text messaging services of carrier Verizon.

 Apple revealed in January that it sees 2 billion iMessages sent each day from a half-billion iOS devices, plus Mac computers, which gained iMessage support last year. iMessage accounts allow users to send and receive their secure messages across all their Apple devices.

Apple's apparent stymying of the DEA was revealed in a government intelligence note . . .  which calls it "impossible" to intercept iMessages, even with a warrant. The note is entitled "Apple's iMessages: A Challenge for DEA Intercept." 

This is another example of the government publicly admitting that civilian encryption is very powerful stuff.  Don't confuse "encryption" for "passwords" because they are very different.  Passwords are apparently easy to defeat.  Encryption isn't. 

Article here.

UPDATE:  TrueCrypt has fallen into disfavor since this blog post was published, although it still works for many functions.  Here are some alternatives to TrueCrypt:  https://www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/truecrypt-is-discoutinued-try-these-free-alternatives/

 

Continue reading
4482 Hits
0 Comments

Charges Dropped Amid Claims of Planting Evidence

Charges Dropped Amid Claims of Planting Evidence

This is one of those cases where the innocent vitim is very luck to have been sitting in view of a camera, and the cops not realize otherwise.

A man who claims a police officer planted drugs on him will have the charges dismissed one day before his case was set to go to trial.

Eleby said his nightmare began in July 2012 at the Chevron gas station on North Hairston Road.

He said he stopped to speak to someone who was sitting in a black SUV when an officer said he smelled marijuana and arrested the driver on charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute.

"I was searched twice," Eleby said. He said no drugs were found on him and he was told to sit down.

His attorney said surveillance video from the location shows the officer call the officer guarding Eleby over to the SUV he had been searching.

As she searches the vehicle, Zenobia Waters said the video shows the officer circle back to her client and toss marijuana next to him. She said the officer then picks the drugs up and repositions them.

The video shows Eleby vehemently protesting what he sees the officer do and the officer then puts him in a chokehold while other officers look on.

Chokehold.  A chokehold because he complained about being framed. 

"The DeKalb County Police Department could not produce the alleged marijuana. Therefore, the State is without the evidence needed for trial. The dismissal is not related to how the alleged marijuana came into existence at the scene of the crime nor the videotape made at the scene of the crime."

I've heard stories that some cops drive around with an exta baggie of cocaine or mairjuana in their trunk that they can throw down by a suspect when they need to make a case.  The missing marijuana is probably already back in the officer's trunk helpking him make more cases. 

Without the video, it would be his word against at least two officers in front of a jury pool with at least a few people who think that anyone accused of a crime must be guilty of something.  He should have pulled out his cell phone and started recording.   That would have made some good, embarrasing YouTube video for this cop. 

Full article here.

Continue reading
4573 Hits
0 Comments

US Supreme Court Bites Back at Dog Searches

US Supreme Court Bites Back at Dog Searches

While the media's attention is squarely focused on the issue of gay marriage, the United States Supreme Court has released its "easy" decision in Florida v. Jardines regarding whether the police can bring a drug dog to your front door for a sniff without a search warrant.  As SCOTUSblog explains:

In an opinion written by Justice Scalia, the Court affirmed the Florida Supreme Court. The Court held a dog sniff at the front door of a house where the police suspected drugs were being grown constitutes a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Justice Kagan filed a concurrence joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Justice Alito filed a dissent joined by the Chief Justice, and Justices Kennedy and Breyer.

Note that the opinion was written by Justice Scalia and joined by Justice Thomas and Justice Ginsburg.  We saw these same three join in the majority in the Kyllo case from 2001 which held that police pointing a thermal imaging device at a home was also a search for 4th Amendment purposes.  Property rights cases are interesting at the Supreme Court level because you will often find Justices labeled as "liberal" or "conservative" joining forces.  It's not odd to see "liberals" siding with the government nor to see "conservatives" siding with homeowners.

The first question the court has to answer is whether bringing a dog to a homeowner's door is a search.  If it is, then case closed, because these particular officers were not authorized to conduct a search.  If it is not a search, more questions would follow.

From the opinion:

[W]hen it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals. At the Amendment’s “very core” stands “the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.”    This right would be of little practical value if the State’s agents could stand in a home’s porch or side garden and trawl for evidence with impunity; the right to retreat would be significantly diminished if the police could enter a man’s property to observe his repose from just outside the front window.

We therefore regard the area “immediately surrounding and associated with the home”—what our cases call the curtilage—as “part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.”  That principle has ancient and durable roots. Just as the distinction between the home and the open fields is “as old as the common law,” so too is the identity of home and what Blackstone called the “curtilage or homestall,” for the “house protects and privileges all its branches and appurtenants.”  This area around the home is “intimately linked to the home, both physically and psychologically,” and is where “privacy expectations are most heightened.”  

While the boundaries of the curtilage are generally “clearly marked,” the “conception defining the curtilage” is at any rate familiar enough that it is “easily understood from our daily experience.”  Here there is no doubt that the officers entered it: The front porch is the classic exemplar of an area adjacent to the home and “to which the activity of home life extends.”

Because the Court holds that bringing a drug dog to the front door of a home is a search, they avoid having to answer other questions about whether a dog's behavior at the front door gives officers grounds for an immediate exigent circumstances search, a search warrant based on the dog's behavior, or nothing at all.  Those questions will have to wait for a later day, for as Justice Scalia writes, "One virtue of the Fourth Amendment’s property-rights baseline is that it keeps easy cases easy."

Continue reading
4174 Hits
0 Comments

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

A Gwinnett County amateur botanist got a hard lesson in the War on Drugs recently.  Police appeared at his door with "information" that he had a marijuana grow house and a search warrant to boot.  They were determined and rude, harassing the innocent homeowner for a confession to a crime he wasn't committing:  

"They said, 'Just say you had plants and you moved them someplace else.' And I just kept telling them the truth. There was never a marijuana garden here," said Scott Smithwick.

Smithwick has set up high intensity lamps, fans and a watering system in two basement rooms in the Lawrenceville home that he shares with his father. He said he does not grow, sell or smoke marijuana and uses the equipment to cultivate mostly tropical plants and flowers.

"I'm a plant freak. Inside I grow banana plants, orchids, and other tropical plants," Smithwick told Channel 2's Tom Regan.

Smithwick has banana trees growing in his basement in January.  Those aren't plants you can grow outside in Georgia in winter.

Several weeks ago, police went to his home twice, the second time with a search warrant. They said they had information that he was producing marijuana.

Information from whom?  Let's name the person who claims this guy was growing marijuana. Additionally, the police should have corroborated the information before getting the search warrant. It sounds like they skipped that part.

Smithwick said he asked if he could videotape officers while they search his home and was told no.

"The sergeant became extremely hostile. His response was, 'Are you serious? I'll handcuff you and detain you in that chair,'" Smithwick said. "They were convinced I had a marijuana garden in here and had just gotten rid of it."

So a guy who is not under arrest and standing inside his own home can't videotape the police while they search for evidence to use against him?  I think otherwise.  In fact, I think Mr. Smithwick would be a poster child for the claim that he has a Constitutional Due Process right to videotape this search as a way of preserving evidence that may be useful in his defense. 

Smithwick said when police found no marijuana they threatened to arrest him for having equipment and materials that could be used to grow pot.

'The sergeant told me based on (the) fertilizers and the lights in the room, I could be charged with manufacturing marijuana and held without bond and sent to prison," Smithwick said.

Uh, no.  Fertilizer isn't a crime.  Grow lights aren't a crime.  Fertilizer and grow lights together aren't a crime.  Even if he was planning on growing marijuana next week, Georgia courts are clear that "preparing to commit a crime isn't a crime."  Purchasing gasoline isn't arson, even if that's why you're purchasing the gasoline.

Smithwick said the threats and intimidation by investigators amounted to harassment.

When the don't have, you know, actual evidence of a crime, threats and intimidation are all they have left and that's what they fall back on.

"As a member of this community, a taxpayer and a voter, I think I deserve some answers," Smithwick said.

We all do, Mr. Smithwick, but don't expect to get them.  Enjoy your bananas.

Continue reading
6846 Hits
0 Comments

TN Lawmakers Investigating "Policing for Profit"

TN Lawmakers Investigating "Policing for Profit"

You may have read here or elsewhere about the abuse of civil forfeiture laws by police.  It looks like Tennessee lawmakers are considering changes: 

Tennessee lawmakers are prepared to consider a major overhaul of laws that allow police to take cash off of drivers to fund their agencies.

Rep. Barrett Rich's bill, as drafted, would completely outlaw the practice known as civil asset forfeiture. That practice allows police to take people's cash or property without charging them with a crime.
 
While Rich didn't believe he had the votes to go that far, he said that there is an emerging consensus over other reforms to protect the innocent.
 
A prime example, Rich said, is the New Jersey man who had $22,000 cash taken from him during a traffic stop. An officer took George Reby's money based on his suspicion that it might be drug money.

Rep. Rich said that story "opened a lot of people's eyes" and has created a chance for reform.
 
"If we arrest a criminal, they are given an opportunity to have a preliminary hearing," the lawmaker said.
 
"I think that when the government does a taking of property, they should be given that opportunity immediately to be given at least hearing in front of an elected judge, a real judge."
 
Rich added that he wants to make sure that police are still allowed to take real drug money off the streets, while protecting the rights of the innocent.

Let's hope.  When police can seize property with impugnity, then things have gone way too far.  Hopefully, other states like Georgia will follow Tennessee's lead in trying to reign in this growing problem.

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

Civil Forfeiture: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

 

 

Don't miss a single post! To be alerted when a new blog post appears (about every other day or so), click on "Subscribe to Blog" near the top of this page.

 

Continue reading
3864 Hits
0 Comments

How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

How a Single Oxycontin Pill Nearly Ruined One Man's Life

Most people think of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine when they think of "drugs."  But many of the drug convictions in the US are from possession of prescription drugs.  Because these drugs often fall into the same drug schedules as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, the penalties can be just as devastating.

Continue reading
Tags:
4471 Hits
0 Comments

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

A judge has said out loud what most lawyers already know:  civil forfeiture is legalize theft.

In the forfeiture case, the state wanted to seize Gregory Palazzari’s gas station in State College, Pa., for allegedly being a storage and selling place for cocaine. Palazzari pled guilty to drug trafficking charges, but argued that the gas station should not be forfeited under the law. The government argued Palazarri was not entitled to a hearing in court to present evidence against the forfeiture.

It IS state-sanctioned theft. The photo in this post is an overhead view of a lot full of seized cars.  Most civil forfeiture cases begin with a drug case. Civil forfeiture cases are entirely separate cases with their own case numbers, court dates and rules. Sometimes they will have the same judge and prosecutors, but not always. You can lose your property even if you win the underlying criminal case. In fact, their doesn't even have to be an underlying criminal case. The police can take your property even if they can't prove you did anything wrong.

In this remarkable case from Tennessee, police seized $22,000 from a man simply because he couldn't prove where it came from. That's outrageous. Your money is your money. You shouldn't have to prove that you got it legitimately. Rather, the burden should be upon the government (police) to prove that you didn't.

If you get involved in a case like this, please don't try to handle it yourself. There are some deadlines and required filings that will kill your case if you miss them. Call us. We can help.

 

Don't miss a single post! To be alerted when a new blog post appears (about every other day or so), click on "Subscribe to Blog" near the top of this page.

Continue reading
4466 Hits
0 Comments

Wireless Telephone Tapping

Wireless Telephone Tapping

In many criminal cases the police use "tapped" cellular telephone data to help build their case.  Unfortunately, this can sometime be done even without a warrant. 

"[T]he Senate voted to grant blanket immunity to companies like AT&T, which conspired with the NSA to monitor American digital conversations without government oversight after 9/11. Today's vote continues that immunity, and provides further carte blanche for the American intelligence-gathering apparatus. Phone calls, texts, and emails are all fair game—and a judge doesn't have to give the OK, so long as it's in the name of counterterrorism. Which is a very easy guise.

Read more here.

Compare this to the FBI's Carnivore program from the late 1990's. 

Continue reading
4357 Hits
0 Comments

Mandatory Sentences Face Growing Skepticism

Mandatory Sentences Face Growing Skepticism

Two decades ago when the current "tough on crime" wave was really getting going, people believed that tougher sentences would send a powerful message and result in FEWER people ending up in jail. These tough sentences would apply to non-violent crime as well, the theory being that the non-violent drug users will graduate up to being violent drug dealers and we save lives and money by locking them up before that happens.  It SOUNDS catchy, but that's just not how life works

“Even though you have been involved in drugs and drug dealing,” Judge Vinson told Ms. George, “your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder but not actively involved in the drug dealing, so certainly in my judgment it does not warrant a life sentence.”

Continue reading
4182 Hits
0 Comments

S.W.A.T.ting

S.W.A.T.ting

"SWATting" is the act of convincing a heavily-armed band of local law enforcement that they need to raid a house.  Sometimes this is done as a prank.  Sometimes it is done maliciously.  Everytime it happens, innocent lives are placed in danger.

 Imagine you're sitting at home, comfortable on the couch, watching the Food Network, when all of a sudden a heavily armed SWAT team breaks down your door and storms into your living room.

That's what happened to 18-year-old Stephanie Milan, who was watching TV in her family's Evansville, Ind., home last Thursday (June 22), when a team of police officers broke down her storm door — the front door was already open — and tossed a flash-bang stun grenade into the room.

"The front door was open," Ira Milan, Stephanie's grandfather and the property owner, told the Evansvile Courier & Press. "To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive."

Turns out, however, that the SWAT team had the address wrong.

Continue reading
4258 Hits
0 Comments

Elderly Couple Stopped, Interrogated for Buckeye

Elderly Couple Stopped, Interrogated for Buckeye

A couple of senior citizens driving through Tennessee were stopped and interrogated for being Ohio State fans: 

Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni, 65, and her husband were driving home to Plano, Texas from Columbus after attending her mother-in-law’s funeral when a pair of black police SUV’s stopped the couple a few miles outside of Memphis.

Apparently, Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni, former president of the Ohio State Alumni Club in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had an Ohio State Buckeye football decal on her vehicle.  Police mistook it for a marijuana leaf. 

They were very serious,” she said. “They had the body armor and the guns.”

Because the couple’s two schnauzers were barking furiously, one of the officers had Jonas-Boggioni exit the car so he could hear her better.

“What are you doing with a marijuana sticker on your bumper?” he asked her.

She explained that it is actually a Buckeye leaf decal, just like the ones that Ohio State players are given to put on their helmets to mark good plays.

“He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language,” she said.

Continue reading
3990 Hits
0 Comments

SWAT For All

SWAT For All

Over at the National Review Online, Deroy Murdock suggests that the real "gun control" we need is control of government guns:

Overarmed federal officials increasingly employ military tactics as a first resort in routine law enforcement. From food-safety cases to mundane financial matters, battle-ready public employees are turning America into the United States of SWAT.

Read the whole thing for some examples of SWAT Gone Wild. 

And of course, no discussion of SWAT and drug raids would be complete without Lindy's "No-Knock Raid" (NSFW or kids):

More:

City of Paragould Proposes Suspicionless Stops By Armed SWAT Agents

S.W.A.T.ting

 

Continue reading
4090 Hits
0 Comments

Why Police Lie In Court

Why Police Lie In Court

In an interesting article in the New York Times, writer Michelle Alexander lays out examples of police lying under oath and to prosecutors about the circumstances (and legality) of arrests, even for small offenses.  What starts out sounding like another tired story about race and class offers up a much more compelling reason why police may not always tell the truth:  Money.

Continue reading
4152 Hits
0 Comments