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‘Legal Theft’ from Citizens by U.S. Police

Howell Hurst Uncategorized

Today, September 7, 2014, the Washington Post reports on Federal support since 9/11 of programs authorizing local police, without probable cause or evidence, to seize cash assets from Americans stopped on highways and roads. It appears that these seizures have contributed substantially in supplementing the budgets of many U.S. law enforcement organizations.

The seizures are made without citizens being accused of any crime. The Federal programs have carried various names. One is “Equitable Sharing Program;” another: “Black Asphalt.” The police do not have to prove the assets are illegal; rather Americans citizens whose assets have been seized must prove that they obtained the assets legally; In other words, the police simply assume the assets are illegal to justly their taking them and using them in operating their organizations.

The following is a direct quote from the Washington Post article:

“There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.”

” Only a sixth of the seizures were legally challenged, in part because of the costs of legal action against the government. But in 41 percent of cases — 4,455 — where there was a challenge, the government agreed to return money. The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of those cases and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.”

“Hundreds of state and local departments and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash, despite a federal ban on the money to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets. The Post found that 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008.”

“Agencies with police known to be participating in the Black Asphalt intelligence network have seen a 32 percent jump in seizures beginning in 2005, three times the rate of other police departments. Desert Snow-trained officers reported more than $427 million in cash seizures during highway stops in just one five-year period, according to company officials. More than 25,000 police have belonged to Black Asphalt, company officials said.”

“State law enforcement officials in Iowa and Kansas prohibited the use of the Black Asphalt network because of concerns that it might not be a legal law enforcement tool. A federal prosecutor in Nebraska warned that Black Asphalt reports could violate laws governing civil liberties, the handling of sensitive law enforcement information and the disclosure of pretrial information to defendants. But officials at Justice and Homeland Security continued to use it.”

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