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Dogs and civil asset forfieture

I have been reading the libertarian sub-Reddit lately. I recommend it. Interesting links are posted, discussion ensues, and thanks to the voting system, interesting comments float to the top. Such as:

Due process has now been reduced to a signal from a dog, which doesn’t even have to be documented.

And why did we do this? What cause was so noble that its pursuit justified the mutilation of our one protection against arbitrary punishment? Oh yeah – protecting people from their own bad decisions.

This is from the discussion of a story from the Institute for Justice about police using an alert from a sniffer dog as an excuse to seize assets even if no drugs are found.

The Institute for Justice is “our nation’s only libertarian public interest law firm”. They have also taken an interest in eminent domain.

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23 comments to Dogs and civil asset forfieture

  • RAB

    I have ranted and wailed for years here about the iniquities of the UK Legal system, but that shit from the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave , is just batshit insane!

    Boodles Sniffnose the third, do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

    Woof!

    Were the defendants in possession of illegal drugs?

    Woof!

    So how come we didn’t find any?

    Woof! (looks shifty, scratches ear with back paw, widdles on carpet).

    Nope, the UK has fucked its legal system something chronic since I studied it, but nobody gets to confiscate your goods without a trial and real evidence and a conviction over here; well not yet anyway.

  • the other rob

    RAB – It has been some years since I last had anything to do with PoCA (the Proceed of Crime Act) but, as I recall, it is much broader in scope than one might think.

    Indeed, I recall a senior officer waxing lyrical on topics including multiple counting and confiscation absent a conviction.

    If (and I’m not sure how big an if that is) it is not being used in that way on a regular basis, that might speak more to the relative merits of the constabularies than of the legal systems.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    I’m sure someone could do a comedy about police dogs! Not just the obvious stuff, but elder dogs instructing newbies, ‘Don’t eat all the evidence’, ‘Bonus is not plural of bone!’, ‘Despite it’s pretty colours, paper money is not a dinner vegetable!’

  • Paul Marks

    The various RICO and “asset fortieture laws” in the United States were justified by endless horror stories about organised crime (the Mafia and so on).

    Of course they are applied to anyone the authorities do not like. And organised crime is only so important because of drug prohibition anyway. The prohibtion of booze was at least constitutional (a Constitutional Amendment was past making it so) – but drug prohibtion is yet another example of the government exercising powers it does not, constitutionally, have.

    There is a perverted consistancy to it all…..

    The unconstitutional drug prohibition creates a situation of massive organised crime – which is, in turn, used to justify unconstitutional RICO and “asset forfieture laws”.

    As for Britain…..

    I think the late John Enoch Powell was the only well known politician to denounce the asset fortieture statutes – and to predict how they would be used.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Much of the problem would go away if seized assets were converted to cash and the cash – finely divided – distributed to the public. The real problem isn’t the mechanism of seizures (dogs, in this instance) but ‘policing for profit’.

    And as for seizures, so for fines generally, and any other practice that turns the law into a cash cow for the state.

  • Gareth

    RAB said:

    Nope, the UK has fucked its legal system something chronic since I studied it, but nobody gets to confiscate your goods without a trial and real evidence and a conviction over here; well not yet anyway.

    Not so. Suspicion is enough to confiscate cash.

    CPS: Investigative Powers and Cash Seizure: Proceeds of Crime Guidance

    Since 30 December 2002, a customs officer or a constable may seize cash at the borders or inland if he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the cash is recoverable property or intended for use in unlawful conduct and if the sum seized is in excess of a minimum amount (section 294 POCA). This exercise of this power is subject to a Code of Conduct. The minimum amount was originally set at £10,000, but was subsequently reduced to £5,000 on 16 March 2004. On 31July 2006, the minimum amount was further reduced to £1,000.

  • Alisa

    I beg to differ, PFP: all it will do is convert in from a cash-laying goose into a vote-milking cow.

  • llamas

    I want to see some wildly-popular mid-brow science show like Mythbusters do a double-blind test of drug-sniffing dogs. I’ve seen numbers for accuracy as low as 50%, which means (essentially) that 4A rights are being traded away on a coin-toss.

    It will never happen, of course.

    llater,

    llamas

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I beg to differ, PFP: all it will do is convert in from a cash-laying goose into a vote-milking cow.

    Posted by Alisa at October 17, 2012 01:10 PM

    Spread out, not enough money to buy many votes. Take the immediate profit out of it and the effort to collect it goes away.

    Incidentally, the argument that fines and seizures defray the cost of enforcement can be countered by using the taxing power to recover as much of the distributed money from the (now richer) public as the public will allow.

  • Um, RAB, although I can’t remember the dates involved, and it is late here on Queenslands sunny Gold Coast so I can’t be bothered looking it up, I do remember a couple of cases of asset forfeiture on suspicion in the UK, where the forfeiture left the defendants with insufficient funds to mount a defense against the allegations.

  • Tedd

    PfP and Alisa:

    “It’s a floor polish and a desert topping!” PFP is right that redirecting the money raised from confiscated property away from the police who do the confiscating can only help. (Sheriff’s departments in the U.S. often get to keep the proceeds, don’t they?) But Alisa is right that it would mostly just change the level at which the corruption occurs.

    Either the money goes into general revenue for the government, or it is somehow distributed directly to the public. The first case just makes the trail of corruption more convoluted. In the second case, the process by which it is distributed directly to the public would remain uncorrupted for no more than a few seconds.

    But, ultimately, the problem lies with voters who tend to see limits on police power as preventing rightful convictions, rather than preventing wrongful convictions. That’s why they tend to support expansion of police power in the first place.

  • RAB

    I stand corrected.

    But I’d like to see some figures on how often these confiscatory “Laws” have been used in the UK, without a hue and cry being raised.

    Without proof trial and conviction, suspicion cannot be enough to steal our money surely? That’s pure Fascism.

  • Alisa

    Tedd:

    But, ultimately, the problem lies with voters who tend to see limits on police power as preventing rightful convictions, rather than preventing wrongful convictions. That’s why they tend to support expansion of police power in the first place.

    Of course.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Either the money goes into general revenue for the government, or it is somehow distributed directly to the public. The first case just makes the trail of corruption more convoluted. In the second case, the process by which it is distributed directly to the public would remain uncorrupted for no more than a few seconds.

    Posted by Tedd at October 17, 2012 03:47 PM

    What I had in mind was a straight distribution: x people in the state, y dollars, each person gets y/x dollars. Definitely not putting the money into the general fund, which would only move the problem to a higher level.

    Now, I’m sure any distribution scheme can be fiddled with, but so long as the money doesn’t accrue to the state it doesn’t matter. The object of the exercise is to keep law enforcement from being used as a cash cow and so long as that’s done the exact way the money leaves the state’s control is unimportant.

  • Brad

    This sort of thing has been going on for quite some time, hence my amusement a few years back in a comment section where a disgusted Brit was so at wits end that they were seriously considering leaving the Motherland to go to the US where they would be free.

    There may be slight variances to the indignities, but both countries are moving along nicely in the stamping out of liberty. Where one is a little behind in one area, it is certain to be ahead in some other area.

  • Alisa

    PFP: I did understand that you meant straight distribution. I still don’t see how it would prevent encouraging voters to vote for politicians who promise new and improved ways and reasons for forfeiture? IOW, it seems to me that along with corrupting policemen and politicians, it would extend the ring of corruption to voters at large.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “nobody gets to confiscate your goods without a trial and real evidence and a conviction over here”

    Wrong.

    The police can confiscate assets from anyone if they think they’re a drug dealer or indeed if they think the assets were obtained by criminal activity.

    “Think” is the correct word. No evidence needed, no charge, no trial, and certainly no conviction required.

    Look at a policeman the wrong way, and you lose your house. Possibly.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Alisa, keep in mind that I also want fines to be distributed: the public might support forfeitures (although I think you do it a disservice), but it loathes speed traps.

  • Alisa

    Possibly, PFP.

    Disservice?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Yep, “disservice.” People are surprisingly decent, at least as long as it doesn’t cost them very much.

    That’s not cynical, either: people make trade-offs and in the real world, principle is only one factor.

  • Alisa

    Don’t know, PFP – history seems to show otherwise.

  • David Gillies

    This has principal/agent problem written all over it. Surely the moral hazard of allowing law enforcement to keep the proceeds of its activities should have been seen immediately. As with most such cases, the real driving force is that no adverse consequences befall the officials abusing their power. In a really free society, being a law-enforcement officer or justice system bureaucrat should be very, very dangerous. Not from on-the-job risks, but because the penalties for malfeasance should be Draconian, in the historical sense of the word.