Posts Tagged ‘civil.forfeiture’

Iowa Disbands Forfeiture Team; Settles Lawsuit from Poker Players

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Back in 2014 I mentioned (in passing) that two poker players had $100,000 seized while simply driving across Iowa on their way home to California. The Iowa Department of Public Safety (the state highway patrol) had a dedicated team on Interstate 80 assigned to seize money from motorists. What were signs of suspicious activity? They included:

– Driving too fast
– Driving too slow
– Driving the speed limit

A better question would have been, “What wasn’t a sign of suspicious activity?”

I am not a fan of civil forfeiture. It’s too easy for it to turn into a funding source for police agencies. The idea of civil forfeiture is to act as a deterrent, not to fund the government. That wasn’t the case in Iowa.

However, that’s in the past. Twin announcements out of Iowa are very good news on the civil forfeiture front. First, the two poker players who had their funds seized had filed a lawsuit alleging their civil rights were violated. Iowa has agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by William (Bart) Davis and John Newmer­zhycky for $60,000. (Iowa had earlier returned $90,000 of the cash that had been seized from the players.)

The second announcement is, in the long-run, more meaningful: Iowa is disbanding its state forfeiture team. The officers have been reassigned to traffic safety and special events. As the Institute for Justice reported,

“Today’s decision is an important step to protect Iowans’ property and due process rights from forfeiture abuse, but the state must do more,” noted Lee McGrath, legislative counsel at the Institute for Justice.

Unfortunately, Iowa still has civil forfeiture laws on the books. Perhaps this settlement and the change in Iowa policy will cause Iowa legislators to end civil forfeiture in the Hawkeye state.

IRS Must Pay Fees in Civil Forfeiture Case

Monday, February 8th, 2016

I’m a huge fan of the Institute for Justice. Last week, the Institute for Justice won a case for a man who had $107,702.66 seized from him. Last May, Lyndon McLellan won the right to get back his $107,702.66 that was seized in a wrongful civil forfeiture action. Last week, he won the approximate $20,000 in legal and other fees he incurred in getting back his own money.

Judge John C. Fox (no relation) noted:

Certainly, the damage inflicted upon an innocent person or business is immense when, although it has done nothing wrong, its money and property are seized. Congress, acknowledging the harsh realities of civil forfeiture practice, sought to lessen the blow to innocent citizens who have had their property stripped from them by the Government. …This court will not discard lightly the right of a citizen to seek the relief Congress has afforded.

I am not a fan of civil forfeiture as currently practiced: It’s being abused widely by the government. Indeed, some government police agencies consider it a part of their normal funding! This is an issue that those both on the left and right can agree on (that there is abuse) so maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some bipartisanship and some reigning in of this.

If you’re thinking of making a charitable donation and wondering about a good organization to donate to, you could do far, far worse than the Institute for Justice.