Will California Stop Police from Taking People’s Property without a Criminal Conviction?

Almost a year after California lawmakers rejected legislation that would restrict police departments’ ability to take cars, cash, homes and other property from suspected criminals without a conviction, the bill’s author is trying again as similar efforts succeed across the country. The practice, known as civil asset forfeiture, gained currency during the height of the drug war in the 1980s as a way for law enforcement to financially cripple drug lords and fund anti-narcotics operations. But … [Read more...]

End Policing for Profit NOW: Support SB 443

Thanks to the tireless advocacy of LA's Senator Holly Mitchell, the California legislature may soon act to curb an abuse that has allowed law enforcement agencies in California to pocket around $80 million each year in assets taken from residents without any form of due process at all. The measure comes up for a crucial vote in the Assembly within the next two weeks. This abusive practice, going back three decades, is called civil asset forfeiture. Although police still like to claim that … [Read more...]

California Should Protect Rights and Reform Laws on Asset Seizure

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pulled over a taco truck driver near Lancaster, searched the truck and found $10,000. The man wasn’t charged with a crime. But law-enforcement agents seized the money. That’s perfectly legal under a federal program called “equitable sharing.” It should be called “inequitable taking.” For more than a year, state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, has been trying to erase the practice that allows local and state police working with federal … [Read more...]

Asset Forfeiture Takes Wealth from Communities of Color

Did you know that in 2014 police took more property from people in the U.S. than burglars did? Frightening, but absolutely legal. Police are allowed to take your money and property even if you aren’t convicted of a crime, or arrested. California law enforcement agencies use federal civil asset forfeiture laws to plump up their budgets and unfairly target Californians. You can help change this here. A report we released today finds that, although this tactic of policing for profit can … [Read more...]

Asset Forfeiture: “Tenny Mucho Mucho Deniro In Su Trucky-Trailer?”

It's a topsy-turvy world when the best place you can go to understand an egregiously abusive police practice like civil asset forfeiture is a comedy show. I hope you watched John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight: Civil Forfeiture" episode that we embedded in Sharon's survey article this weekend. I’ll add it here for good measure. Using biting humor, of course, but also facts and figures and film, the British comedian nails this absurd process of allowing police departments to seize property … [Read more...]

Asset Forfeiture’s Unintended Poor Victims

Who knew the aggressive law enforcement tool to weaken and discourage organized crime would sweep up unintended poor victims who are unjustly losing their property? Here in California there is proposed legislation to correct this travesty and protect people from the snares of over policing. And whether or not we realize it anyone of us can fall into the trap of losing our home, car, and property. That is why State Senator Holly Mitchell (D – Los Angeles) has spent the past two years pushing … [Read more...]

Targeting the Poor: Asset Forfeiture, Bail Practices, and Debt Peonage

What: ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter Forum Where: Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church, 301 N. Orange Grove Bvld., Pasadena When: Tuesday, May 10th, 6:30 to 9 p.m. RSVP Here Jess Farris, Policy and Advocacy Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, with experience working to prevent and correct wrongful convictions. Michael Kaufman, Immigrant Rights Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, leading a class action lawsuit against the federal government about its … [Read more...]

Forfeiting the American Dream

Beonca Williams crosses the street with her 1-year-old son Joshua Felix outside the Regent Family Residence, left, March 12, 2015, in New York. How Civil Asset Forfeiture Exacerbates Hardship for Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color In the United States, the basic tenet of the criminal justice system is that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, over the past several decades, many thousands of people across the country have had their property seized by the … [Read more...]

Feds Resumed Controversial Program That Lets Cops Take Stuff and Keep It

The Justice Department has announced that it is resuming a controversial practice that allows local police departments to funnel a large portion of assets seized from citizens into their own coffers under federal law. The "Equitable Sharing Program" gives police the option of prosecuting some asset forfeiture cases under federal instead of state law, particularly in instances where local law enforcement officers have a relationship with federal authorities as part of a joint task force. … [Read more...]

Holly Mitchell Bill Fails

Legislation limiting law enforcement's ability to confiscate property from Californians not convicted of crimes failed badly in the Assembly on Thursday, a fate the bill's author forcefully attributed to a disingenuous campaign by opponents. Asset forfeiture allows peace officers to seize cash and property from people they suspect of crimes. Proponents call it a tool to cripple large criminal enterprises by cutting off their financing, but critics argue it has been abused to pad police … [Read more...]