Wednesday, August 29, 2007

America's Antithetical Seizure Laws

Yet another example of our seriously screwed up seizure laws, via Dispatches and The Agitator.

Anastasio Prieto of El Paso gave a state police officer at the weigh station permission to search the truck to see if it contained "needles or cash in excess of $10,000," according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit Thursday.

Prieto told the officer he didn't have any needles but did have $23,700.

Officers took the money and turned it over to the DEA. DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto over his objections, then released him without charging him with anything.

Border Patrol agents searched his truck with drug-sniffing dogs, but found no evidence of illegal substances, the ACLU said.


DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he'd have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.

They told him the process probably would take a year, the ACLU said.
I am heading out to work, so don't have a lot of time to comment, but Radley is right, this is nothing more than petty theft. There is no reason, no excuse for taking this guy's money. It is absolute insanity that we live in a nation that claims such high standards for criminal law, yet ignores it when they have the opportunity to feed the cash cow.

I am not averse to law enforcement having the ability to freeze assets in conjunction with criminal investigations. I have no problem with them being able to seize assets. But the burden of proof, should always, always, rest with the state, not the accused.


Icepick said...

Yeah, seizure laws are pretty egregious in this country right now. About twenty years ago, another awful case happened down here in Florida. A man was stopped on his way from Tallahassee to his home in Miami. He had something like $80,000 in cash in his car. The Volusia County Sheriff's Department seized the cash even though the man could prove that he had won the money from playing the lottery.

Their rationale was that he was possibly a drug dealer and had purchased the winning ticket at a markup so as to launder his profits. Absolutely reprehensible, but that's how Sheriff Vogel made a name for himself. (Fortunately we did NOT elect that tool to any higher office.) Unfortunately, I don't remember if the man won his case in court or not, but he sure as hell should have.

Icepick said...

On another, but related, note, I heard something depressing on the radio this morning. I had probably been hearing the ad in question for some time now, but today is the first time I listened.

It was an ad for ITT, showcasing their degrees in criminal justice. The depressing part? The ad made the case for this course of study because criminal justice is a high growth industry in the USA. Funny, I don't FEEL like I'm committing any more crimes this decade than I did last decade....

DuWayne Brayton said...

The ad made the case for this course of study because criminal justice is a high growth industry in the USA.

Well, when you consider that the U.S., per capita, imprisons more of it's population than most countries, CJ will be a growth industry. Figure, one out of every thirty-two Americans was either behind bars, on probation or on parole, last year. Lovely, 'innit?