Asset Forfeiture

Was Your Phone Used in Connection with a Crime? Then Federal Agents Can Steal Your House.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has offered up a new twist on "asset forfeiture," the practice of taking property from citizens not convicted of a crime (the horrible, unjust uses of that policy is something one can read about here at Reason with great (and depressing) regularity).

ICE,gov

The Intercept reported this month laughable (if it couldn't harm so many innocent people) guidelines in an ICE manual for agents to maximize the amount they can steal from citizens without ever convicting them of any crime in a court of law.

ICE is part of Homeland Security, which, as Intercept reports, "seizes millions of dollars in assets through the course of investigations — everything from cash and houses, to boats and cars….the revenue is also used to award and reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies that participate in federal seizure-related investigations, which those agencies then use to purchase equipment, weapons, and other law enforcement technology."

ICE "leads the way both in seizures feeding into the fund and in payments doled out to state and local law enforcement."

That is, law enforcement can institutionally profit by stealing property from citizens who may not have ever been convicted of a crime. The handbook Intercept intercepted has "extensive discussion of how agents should painstakingly determine whether a property is valuable enough to make seizure worthwhile."

The manual describes, in telling and infuriating detail, the niggling level to which agents are instructed to make a quasi-legal excuse for blatant theft:

The manual instructs agents to perform drive-by viewings of property, as well as "post-and-walk" viewings — a measure ICE calls "potentially one of the most important steps in the seizure/forfeiture process." In the case of post-and-walk viewings, ICE agents obtain a warrant allowing them to search a property's premises, and are instructed to bring along a private real estate expert to help appraise the property's value…

And if the house wasn't connected to any crime, well, maybe, just maybe, the agent can find a phone on the premises that was.

If so, a big hurrah for the cops and their campaign against crime (and against citizens' property)! Connecting the phone to a crime, in and of itself, can be enough: "The manual instructs agents seeking to seize a property to work with confidential informants, scour tax records, and even obtain an interception warrant to determine whether 'a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity' in order to justify seizing the property."

While the handbook was dated 2010, Intercept confirmed with ICE that it represents up to date policy and practices, which continue to be evil.

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  1. Way to slip in a major nut punch right at the end of the day, Doherty. I gotta go home and ice my balls.

    1. Ice Balls was my nickname at the nunnery.

  2. We overthrew king George III over a 2% excise tax. WTF, America?

    -jcr

    1. Now we get to vote for our king, so it’s all good.

    2. And our leaders spent the next 200 years slowly boiling the frog of liberty so no one would notice until it was too late.

  3. Remember, back in the old days, when ‘banner’, not ‘land of the free’ was the object in the national anthem? Good times.

    1. Took me a minute to unpack that comment.

  4. RE: Was Your Phone Used in Connection with a Crime? Then Federal Agents Can Steal Your House.

    Use a phone, lose your house.
    Yup.
    That old legal precedent of Fuck You, That’s Why, is working overtime again.

  5. So, have they just given up on the pretense of the property seized being some kind of proceeds of criminal activity?

    1. You have it. They want it. That settles it.

  6. The manual instructs agents to perform drive-by viewings of property, as well as “post-and-walk” viewings

    Well, duh. Any good thief knows you have to case the joint before you steal shit.


  7. …and even obtain an interception warrant to determine whether ‘a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity’ in order to justify seizing the property.”

    Uhh…how do they get an intercept warrant without probable cause that a crime was committed? Am I the only one that thinks that either this bit is taken out of context or is an actual admission that they approach the process completely backwards?

    Egads.

    1. “Uhh…how do they get an intercept warrant without probable cause that a crime was committed? ”

      Because far too many (read as most) of the magistrate judges that issue warrants don’t waste even half a second questioning whether or not the information in the warrant application either makes sense or amounts to probable cause before they rubber stamp the warrant application.

    2. There was A LOT of that just before George Waffen Bush had to go on teevee about “the market not working” as the economy collapsed. Sooner or later logical induction kicks in and people begin to see that correlation does indeed point to causality, bigger’n The Great Depression!

  8. What kind of people take these jobs? I can’t even.

    1. The same kind of person who pushed Jews into gas chambers?

      1. He lives! We are all relieved, Crusty 🙂

  9. Life pro tip. Deal drugs from a rental.

  10. “Was Your Phone Used in Connection with a Crime? Then Federal Agents Can Steal Your House.”

    1. Federal Agents Can Steal Your House.

      1. Federal Agents Can Steal Your House.

  11. Have any asset forfeiture cases actually made it to appeals courts or (gasp!_ the Supreme Court?

    I know the general theory of asset forfeiture, starting with pirates and smugglers. But these cases stretch the legal fabric beyond the breaking point. I’d really like to know what the wise appeals judges and supremes have to say.

    1. If it looked like the court was going to rule against asset forfeiture, the govt would just give you back what they took and file for dismissal due to lack of standing.

      1. I believe this has happened. Think I read about it here.

    2. I cannot find a case based on the fourth amendment. Lots that wind up being “OK” because there is an eventual conviction for something, a few where the stuff goes back to the owner because of illegal search or other procedural thing, but NOTHING on a fourth amendment basis.

      Of course, most of the convictions are because without the asset, you are stuck with a public defender who always says cop a plea, so the seizure gets justified. (And the public defender gets promoted to prosecutor for big bucks)

      1. “I cannot find a case based on the fourth amendment”

        Never mind the 4th Amendment – it’s a violation of 5th Amendment private property rights. It constitutes a taking of private property.

    3. The feds tried to raid and nationalize foreign vessels for transporting a case of wine in international waters. Britain protested by diplomatically freeing bootleggers. The Coast Guard then did like the Salt Lake, Seneca, NY and other police forces. They murdered Henry Virkula then crewmembers of the “I’m Alone”, a Canadian Schooner, but taxpayers eventually had to pay damages after repeal. Canadian teevee did a special on “The Sinking of the I’m Alone” which Reason TV could cover to good effect.

  12. The bigger and more invasive a government gets, the more it resembles a protection racket…or a feudal feifdom full of peasants.

  13. Don’t worry — you can still sue the government to get your stuff back.

    Like my buddy whose newly purchased gun was seized by the Philly police in a traffic stop because it wasn’t listed in the registry sales database. Fought them, won, and got back a gun-shaped lump of rust (probably given a salt water bath in the interim).

    1. It’s scuzzy. Until one can sue for damages considerably higher than the cost of the stolen assets this will continue to be unbreakable.

      1. Voting got it passed. Voting can get it repealed.

  14. Wow, the most cringeworthy section isn’t even quoted in this blog post.

    Agents under its instruction are asked to weigh the competing priorities of law enforcement versus financial profit and to “not waste instigative time and resources” on assets it calls “liabilities” ? which include properties that are not profitable enough for the federal government to justify seizing. “As a general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the value of the property, the property should not be seized,” the document states.

    This is especially appalling as the entire legal justification for asset forfeiture is its punitive and preventive nature. It punishes crime bosses in situations where you can only get proof of crimes by underlings, disrupts the ability to commit crimes by taking away necessary resources, etc. The revenue is supposed to just be a “happy side effect” for law enforcement. But in this case, they’re saying it should be the only criterion, indeed that opportunities to prevent and punish crime should be foregone if the revenue isn’t there.

    Given the choice between seizing a dilapidated, roach-infested crack house where murdered bodies are constantly being found vs. a 100 foot yacht where someone happened to smoke a joint, the asset forfeiture doctrine indicates that the former should be the priority.

    1. Well, give them credit where credit is due. They certainly are shameless.

  15. And yet people still don’t vote Libertarian.
    They think this stuff only affects criminals.

    1. They don’t see anything on teevee about the law-changing clout of spoiler votes. What people see on teevee is paid for by the Nixon anti-libertarian law of 1971, built into the IRS code. Banana republics have copied that sort of government-subsidized brainwashing with tax money, and their Al Frankenstein economies show what a good Idea that was.

  16. I’m more troubled by kneeling football players.

    1. Phew. Glad you’re not dead.

        1. That sucks. Glad you’re posting at least.

          1. Thanks. I have a new job so I won’t be diddling about as much.

            Control your emotions, dammit!

            1. Does this mean you are finally moving out of the chinchilla cage?

            2. Congrats. I can control it, as long as I can look up into the same sky, and know that somewhere you’re looking at it too.

            3. So is juggling mostly third shift work?

            1. Oh, just a new job, congrats, then.

    2. Why? Are you against religion?

  17. http://forward.com/schmooze/38…..rrie-fish/

    This is why the Onion is no longer funny. Satire is no longer possible.

    1. I’m pretty sure that article is joking.

      1. I don’t think so. But it is impossible to tell these days.

        1. Considering it lists “grapes cut up to feel like eyeballs” and “a picture of elizabeth warren” I’m pretty sure it’s a joke.

          From the same author though, I don’t think this complete and total who gives a shit is a joke:
          It Doesn’t Matter How ‘Punk’ Ivanka Trump Was, Kurt Cobain Would Have Hated Her

          1. Kurt Cobain is a musical legend. Throughout his career, he was vocally anti-sexist, anti-racist, pro-choice, and an ally to the gay community during a time when few celebrities were. He was notoriously uncomfortable with fame and wealth and lived under a bridge during parts of his youth.

            Ivanka Trump is the daughter and right hand woman to the single most misogynistic, openly racist American president in modern history. Despite having played an integral role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, she refuses to speak out against his sexist, homophobic words and actions. At best, she is a coward. At worst, she is complicit. She has chosen what side of history she intends to be on ? and it is not the same side as Kurt Cobain.

            I assume everyone here is relatively familiar with my bullshit at this point. I’m not a particularly pro-Trump guy. But we can all agree except probably Tony that this is just insipid.

            1. Damn it John. Is this revenge? Now I’m reading this damn site. You condemned me to hell you mad man.

              1. I am a monster. I just can’t help it

              2. Ha, I got suckered into reading that Howard Stern piece. Goddamn, when did liberals start to sound like socons?

            2. Openly racist President? Someone needs to inform that snowflake about LabJ and Wilson. What an idiot

  18. Asset forfeiture sure worked for Herbert Hoover, the Wizened Christian Temperance Union and Anti Saloon League. Not so good for Wall Street and the banking system. Then again, they’re only the 1%, outvoted by superstitious looters–until 1932. The party I vote for demands the abolition of government gangsterism. My spoiler votes pack law-changing clout.

  19. determine whether ‘a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity’

    Pedro (on phone): “Remember, Juan, don’t discuss any criminal activity or ICE can seize my house!”

    ICE (listening in): “Ah, HA!!”

  20. The mere existence of the phrase:

    in order to justify seizing the property.”

    Should be enough to shut the whole thing down.

    At this point, the masses should be pounding on the doors to the legislature. The fact that they are not speaks volumes. And not just about the “but not me” attitude that most individuals have, but also the led-around-by-the-nose agenda of the national media. They could bring this to an end, post haste, should the so desire. But “not them” is the target, so it is all OK.

    1. It’s sad this isn’t discussed more. It’s a very valid topic, and I’m glad Reason has made it a hobby horse of theirs.

  21. Anyone else around at this time of the evening?

    “Pollution kills more people than all wars and violence in the world”
    […]
    “One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 ? about 9 million ? could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in The Lancet medical journal.”
    http://www.nydailynews.com/new…..-1.3575493

    You’ll forgive me if a study promoted by Lancet gets a bit of a skeptical view, and I don;t recall the Lancet ever being curious regarding:
    “Mass killings under Communist regimes – Wikipedia”
    “In his summary of the estimates in the Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia suggested a death toll of between 85 and 100 million people.”
    Now, I’d promote a reduction in pollution everywhere and always, but it’s an odds-on bet that the Lancet proposes to do so by government regulation; that which has fostered pollution most everywhere.

    1. So, I can’t find the actual article so everything is based on the news story you linked. Here are some thoughts.

      The article throws around some unqualified terms. The most significant I found was the “premature death” statistic. That’s one of those ones that feels like it’s written to sound like an obvious term, but could actually be a ridiculously broad category.

      Second, they state “One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 ? about 9 million ? could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in The Lancet medical journal.” That could is a pretty big qualifier for this. I would be incredibly curious to see how they find causal relation between these two events.

      It’s also difficult because we don’t have longitudinal data, they have one for the year 2015 which makes it difficult to draw conclusions about impact of this. Particularly because the article apparently does make political declarations due to these facts.

      The statement “The report cites EPA research showing that the U.S. has gained some $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on controlling air pollution since 1970”

      1. The statement “The report cites EPA research showing that the U.S. has gained some $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on controlling air pollution since 1970” is also interesting. I would be interested how they establish this, as I can’t particularly see how you could extrapolate easily. They could maybe estimate the money saved on medical costs, and then do some extrapolation based on that money being invested in other ways? I do not know.

        The other stat they give is, “Removing lead from gasoline has earned the U.S. economy another $6 trillion cumulatively since 1980, according to studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

        A rough estimate I did shows that the sum of the annual US GDP since 1980 is ~445 million (Lots of room for error here, so take what I saw with salt). This would mean that almost 1.5% of the economy since then was earned by using unleaded gasoline. Once again, I don’t know how they would make this statement, but 1.5% seems huge for such a little change, and if this causal effect was strongly shown I imagine every nation on earth would ban it immediately.

        Otherwise, I don’t know. I’m always skeptical of things that attempt to assert hypercausal links to such complex systems such as pollution and health. Particularly when they then use it to argue for certain political belief.

        What about you?

    1. It seems the Left has simply given up on rebutting him. I suggest it’s time for some right-winger to do the rebutting, answering and refuting his actual arguments, leaving the rhyming chants and disruption to the leftists.

      1. “You know that what I’m saying is powerful. You know that what I’m saying is going to change the world,” Spencer shouted. “We are stronger than you, and you all know it.”

        He’s going to get killed, and he will be a martyr for these horrible people for years. They are making him more powerful in the eyes of those even mildly sympathetic.

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