Update: "Equitable sharing" back in force
This next is an Update and I am really angry about this one.
In January, I spoke about what I called the "mostly" Good News that the feds had largely ended a program called "equitable sharing." This was a corrupt outgrowth of the corrupt practice of "civil asset forfeiture," itself a corrupt outgrowth of the corrupt and miserable failure that is "the war on drugs."
Civil asset forfeiture allows cops to seize assets based on nothing more than a claimed belief - not evidence, I remind you, but "belief" - that the assets in question were involved in, or purchased with the proceeds of, illegal drug activity. They can do this even if they have no basis for any charges against the person possessing the asset.
Under this program, cops have seized money, computers, TVs, jewelry, cars, even homes and businesses without ever presenting - or even having to present - a single shred of evidence that the owners had done anything illegal.
Once an asset is seized, it becomes the responsibility of the person whose property was taken to prove that the asset was not obtained through the drug trade; that is, they have to prove a negative and they have the burden of proof in doing it. And remember, this is a civil matter, not a criminal one, so you have no right to an attorney and have to bear any legal costs to try to regain your property out of your own pocket, costs which can easily run to thousands of dollars and exceed the value of the asset. So very often people just give up and don't even try to get their stuff back.
Well, under "equitable sharing," local cops could choose to pursue civil forfeiture cases under federal law, rather than state law, in any case where federal agencies are involved, even tangentially. Here's the point: Under many state laws, the cops get to keep some portion of the assets seized - but under federal law, they get to keep a whopping 80%.
So "equitable sharing" acted as an incentive for cops to make an end run around their own state's laws and seize anything and everything they could to fatten their departmental budgets.
Which is why it was mostly good news that equitable sharing was being mostly shut down.
But the bastards couldn't leave it alone. On April 4, the Department of Justice reinstated the program, citing - get this - an "improved budget situation."
Civil asset forfeiture has gotten so far out of hand that in 2014, the last year with final figures, cops stole more stuff than burglars did.
And equitable sharing, the evil spawn of civil asset forfeiture, only makes this worse. It is disgusting and both it and the entire regime of civil asset forfeiture should die a quick death.
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