Revising Finders Keepers

Much like the death penalty, asset forfeiture laws have been mangled, compromised, bastardized and manipulated to the point that they are unrecognizable to original intend. And as such, much like the death penalty, something I supported until its current application made it unworkable and a mockery to anything remotely resembling justice, asset forfeiture laws (AFL) have been abused to the point of being an enemy to individual civil liberty, and also a mockery of justice. Too bad, since the original intend was both noble and just, namely to deprive convicted criminals of their ill gotten gains, and who could argue with that? If a meth dealer was stopped on the highway for speeding, carrying several pounds of the illegal drug along with 50 grand in cash, the idea was that if the property (the cash and his brand new Benz) could be linked to the crime (say he hasn’t held a real job in 3 years and has been living on public assistance), then upon conviction he loses these items, tough luck sucker. But alas, greed and laziness came in to the picture, police agencies would seize property, anything they could grab, upon arrest (not conviction) even with a tenuous link between property and crime. Innocent people were getting screwed because cash starved public agencies wanted their stuff and had a legal avenue to steal it.

Enter the top choice (so far) for the VP slot on the next GOP presidential ticket, NM governor Susan Martinez, who just grabbed some low hanging fruit and made herself even more relevant;

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill to abolish civil asset forfeiture Friday.

She signed just before the noon deadline that would have pocket vetoed the legislation.

“As an attorney and career prosecutor, I understand how important it is that we ensure safeguards are in place to protect our constitutional rights,” Martinez said in a letter announcing her decision. “On balance, the changes made by this legislation improve the transparency and accountability of the forfeiture process and provide further protections to innocent property owners.”

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where police can seize your property and keep it even if they don’t convict or charge you with a crime. Then, you must go through the difficult, and often unsuccessful process to get your property–whether it’s a vehicle, cash or your home–back from the police.

No, she is not abolishing the entire practice, nor do I think she should, just bringing it back to the original intent. Even the ACLU is on board (wait a minute, maybe we should rethink this).

Requiring demonstrable facts linking the crime to the property (no more, “Well, he was in the vicinity, good enough”) independently reviewed by an Appeals Board before anything can be seized, then holding said property in “Trust” until any convictions, yes, we are getting closer to what the law as actually written to do.

No doubt many would like all AFL abolished in toto, anymore end arounds or subverting intent and we just might go that route.

AFL, like the death penalty, should be used judicially and sparingly, under the spotlight of public review, both serve a purpose. Guys like that turd Tsarnaev and Maj. Hasan, I want them dead. And not 25 years from now dead. justice delayed in justice denied, a year appeals max, then give them the cocktail.

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  1. InsipiD

    Great post.  The way that asset forfeiture laws are set up should’ve never been allowed to begin with.

     

    As for the death penalty, they sure got a needle in McVeigh pretty quickly.  Too bad about the countless others (Abu-Jamal anyone?) who seemed to have missed the bus far too many times.

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