Asset Forfeiture

D.C. Police's Asset Forfeitures Are Very Lucrative and Very Petty

|

"Look at all those jaywalkers. We're going to need back up to collect their wallets."
Credit: Joe in DC / photo on flickr

The Washington Post's original three-part, in-depth look at the use and abuse of police civil asset forfeiture seems to have transformed into an open-ended, ongoing series. Over the weekend they posted a sixth installment exploring grabby police departments taking their citizens' cash and belongings.

This time they kept it local, noticing that Washington, D.C.'s, police are actually attempting to plan in its budget for asset forfeiture proceeds in advance. This is considered a no-no for any law enforcement agency participating in the Department of Justice's Equitable Sharing Program, the program where the feds and local enforcement agencies team up, and the local police get to keep 80 percent of whatever's seized. This planning came to light to the Post last week because members of D.C.'s Council are attempting to overhaul the city's asset forfeiture guidelines to increase the threshold of proof and requiring all asset seizures—including the ones that come from the DOJ program—to be placed in D.C.'s general fund, rather than the police's budget, thus seriously reducing the police's incentives for snatching whatever they can.

And just look at what they've snatched:

Since 2009, D.C. officers have made more than 12,000 seizures under city and federal laws, according to records and data obtained from the city by The Washington Post through the District's open records law. Half of the more than $5.5 million in cash seizures were for $141 or less, with more than a thousand for less than $20. D.C. police have seized more than 1,000 cars, some for minor offenses allegedly committed by the children or friends of the vehicle owners, documents show.

They're literally just taking the money out people's wallets at this point. And the authorities cash in even more whenever somebody fights back:

One case cited by the Public Defender Service involves Sharlene Powell, who had worked for three decades as a Postal Service employee. She loaned her car to her son, who was stopped and arrested on a misdemeanor drug offense. Prosecutors dropped the charges, but District police kept the car. To get her car back, Powell had to pay a $1,772 "penal sum" bond to challenge the seizure, the Public Defender Service said in a statement last year to the judiciary committee.

Read more here. The city is in a legal fight with the Public Defender Service to try to get rid or reduce those massive bonds. The city could lose $670,000 annually from the DOJ Equitable Sharing Program if it can no longer participate. The program's guidelines require that law enforcement agencies keep the money, not put it into the general fund.

Below, Reason TV interviews economist Bart Wilson about the twisted incentives induced when law enforcement officers are permitted to keep money and assets they grab when fighting crime:

 

Advertisement

NEXT: DEA Searches NFL Teams for Illegally Prescribed Painkillers, Drugs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They are awful on parking tickets too. They are known for writing tickets even if you are in the clear because of the time, I never believed people who said it happened until it happened to me parked in 2hr spot that the pay period expired at 6 pm at around 645 pm went out to eat and came back at 800 pm I think it was a 35 dollar ticket.

    1. That’s why I park at the metro station and take the train down. Driving in DC sucks ballz anyway, and there is no real advantage to it.

    2. Then there’s camera traffic enforcement. It’s justified in the name of pedestrian safety, which must be why roads that are legally closed to pedestrians have so many traffic cameras.

      1. My favorite are the ones that take your picture in 25 mph zone just in sight of the 35 mph sign.

        1. And the light cameras where they’ve shortened the yellow so that you are sure you’ll make it through the light and that’s better than having to stop too fast, and then 1 second later, the light is red.

          1. Yeah those are pretty clever as well.

  2. The Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Stealing Program.

    FIFY you jackass thugs.

  3. They’re literally just taking the money out people’s wallets at this point. And the authorities cash in even more whenever somebody fights back:

    Good Christ, all hail to Murika the great land of freedom.

    The USA is worse than a fucking 3rd world country now. At least there, they just stop you and procrastinate until you hand them some cash and be on your way, they don’t just grab your wallet and take the cash out, or worse, steal your car also.

    1. They looked to Mexico and were inspired.

      1. More like they looked to Nazi Germany and were inspired, fucking pigs.

        1. You know who else…

          1. Arnold Ziffle?

    2. they don’t just grab your wallet and take the cash out, or worse, steal your car also.

      I’m pretty sure they do that in many 3rd world countries.

    3. The USA is worse than a fucking 3rd world country now.

      No, no it really isn’t.

      At least there, they just stop you and procrastinate until you hand them some cash and be on your way, they don’t just grab your wallet and take the cash out, or worse, steal your car also.

      Having traveled extensively in both South America and Africa I can say with absolute certainty that they do both of these things quite regularly.

      And you get lippy they shoot you.

      Don’t mistake your experience in the touristy, protected havens in Brazil. Most of Latin America is far worse than the US if you are a gringo (or black).

  4. When proglodytes acknowledge the existence of civil forfeiture at all, even they acknowledge how horrible it is. That must be why, at least in my experience, most of them don’t acknowledge its existence. We mustn’t question the omnibenevolence of government (except on abortion).

    1. No, like everything else they don’t like, they blame it on Republicans.

      It’s true that Republicans are responsible for asset forfeiture laws, but they never acknowledge that Democrats are equally responsible. Asset forfeiture has long been a bipartisan effort.

  5. Kudos to the WAPO for publishing this. The comments there are overwhelmingly positive, as in outraged over this shit. Hopefully something gets done about this and soon.

    1. Even some of the resident cheerleaders for big government expressed outrage.

      1. They’re stupid sheep if they’re not. After all, you don’t need to do anything for this to happen to you except for drive on the highway and have some cash on you.

        I expect the group that will be most quiet about this will be the progs. Afterall, they have to remain ensured that everything the government does is for their own good. Otherwise, their world view starts to crumble.

      2. Luckily, there’s clearly a racial element to this story which essentially gives the left a nod to complain about this. if it weren’t for that this story would just be a bunch of teabaggers whining about government.

    2. I think this may be one of the first fruits of the Bezos takeover.

  6. This shows how little is left of the Fourth Amendment, and they’re tearing up the rest, especially the First and Second. Remember, when cheering for the courts forcing gay marriage on states who voted against it, they also control how the Bill of Rights is interpreted.

    The Judiciary giveth, the judiciary taketh away.

  7. Reason TV interviews economist Bart Wilson about the twisted incentives induced when law enforcement officers are permitted to keep money and assets they grab when fighting initiating crime:

    If you think the enforcers for the state mafia are interested in preventing crime, other than to keep competitors from encroaching on their turf, you’re not payihg attention.

    1. Show me someone who believes that cops investigate crime, and I’ll show you someone who has never been the victim of a crime.

  8. OT: Gruber continues to be the best thing that ever happened to the republicans next to Obama.

    http://hotair.com/archives/201…..on-a-year/

    For instance, we missed this little gem that emerged on Friday, where the MIT professor brags that RomneyCare was set up ? with the assistance of Ted Kennedy, of course ? to “rip off” the federal government to the tune of $400 million a year.

  9. my buddy’s step-sister makes $72 /hr on the computer . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $17405 just working on the computer for a few hours.visit this site….

    ?????? http://www.payinsider.com

  10. “Council are attempting to overhaul the city’s asset forfeiture guidelines to increase the threshold of proof and requiring all asset seizures”

    If only there were some document or some simple set of guidelines that would help us know if seizures or searches were on the up-and-up.

  11. My buddy’s step-aunt makes $89 every hour on the laptop . She has been without work for 8 months but last month her check was $14034 just working on the laptop for a few hours. check out here. ???? http://www.jobsfish.com

  12. In a statement, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the department is not building its budget with the proceeds of civil seizures but is using them “to augment the reward pool of funding and confidential fund programs (witness protection, rewards for information in homicides).”

    Good thing funds are fungible.

  13. Cathy Lanier: Petty In Chief!

  14. Jack Frost is not going to liek that dude.

    http://www.Safe-Anon.tk

  15. The premise of civil forfeiture, is that the property committed the crime. Like dog or a car knows what it is doing. WTF?

    Read this short article the ridiculousness of the legal fiction of sentient property:

    http://www.nolanchart.com/arti…..iture-html

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.