States let police take and keep your stuff even if you haven’t committed a crime

Only five states prevent police from taking and keeping your stuff without charging you for a crime: Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

The rest fully allow what’s known as “civil forfeiture”: Police officers can seize someone’s property without proving the person was guilty of a crime; they just need probable cause to believe the assets are being used as part of criminal activity, typically drug trafficking. Police can then absorb the value of this property — be it cash, cars, guns, or something else — as profit, either through state programs or under a federal program known as Equitable Sharing that lets local and state police get up to 80 percent of the value of what they seize as money for their departments.

So police can not only seize people’s property without proving involvement in a crime, but they have a financial incentive to do so. It’s the latter that state reforms attempt to limit: Police should still be able to seize property as evidence. But the changes make it so they can’t keep that property without a criminal conviction — and therefore won’t be able to take people’s property as easily for personal profit.

The limits on civil forfeiture vary from state to state — but federal law leaves a loophole

The five states limit forfeiture in different ways. In New Mexico and North Carolina, a court must convict the suspect of a crime before the same judge or jury can consider whether seized property can be absorbed by the state. In Minnesota, Montana, and Nevada, a suspect must be convicted of a crime in court before the seized property can be absorbed by the state through separate litigation in civil court.

These limitations don’t entirely stop police from seizing someone’s property — cops can still do that with probable cause alone, and hold the property as evidence for trial. But the government won’t be able to absorb the property and its proceeds without convicting the suspect of a crime. This limits police seizures in two ways: It forces cops to show the suspect was actually involved in a crime after the property is seized, and it can deter future unfounded seizures for profit since police know they’ll need to prove a crime.

Still, the states can still use federal law for civil forfeiture. Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, a national nonprofit that opposes civil forfeiture, said that North Carolina, Nevada, Minnesota, and Montana can still work with federal law enforcement officials to take people’s property without charging them with a crime. New Mexico, meanwhile, allows local and state police to work through the federal law only for seized property that has a value of more than $50,000.

Still, groups like the Institute for Justice have praised states for taking steps to limit civil forfeiture — a policy that has long been mired by criticisms and horror stories of police abuse.

The civil forfeiture reforms came in response to criticisms — and stories of police abuse

Critics have long argued that civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to essentially police for profit, since many of the proceeds from seizures can go back to police departments.

The Washington Post’s Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow, and Steven Rich uncovered several stories in which people were pulled over while driving with cash and had their money taken despite no proof of a crime. The suspects in these cases were only able to get their property back after lengthy, costly court battles in which they showed they weren’t guilty of anything.

Dawgs thoughts:

Recent court rulings have diminished state and local agencies ability to use civil forfeiture abilities because of abuses. The Feds have been able to sidestep these guidelines. So the result is when an agency does a warrant or activity that could end up in an asset seizure situation there is either a fed present or a local who is temporary assigned as a fed just for that purpose. There may be no federal criminal activity but they are there for one reason only. This is how the restrictions placed are sidestepped.

I remember when the asset forfeiture laws were originally started and it was a good tool on the war on drugs. As usual, human nature as it is, abuse and personal gain starts to take over and greed gets the better of them and many people lose money or property and never get charged with a crime.

I find it strange that you could be on vacation and you have a large amount of cash and a police officer can take it with no justification and virtually no recourse in getting it back. I find it amazing that we as a people have allowed that to happen.

Apathy is Guvments best friend…….

Christian Pastor In Vermont Sentenced To One Year In Prison After Refusing To Marry Gay Couple

Pastor Paul Horner

According to NBC News, a pastor at the Christian Proctor Church in Vermont, has been sentenced to one year in federal prison after refusing to marry gay couples. This comes shortly after the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision ruling that states must allow gay marriage.

The Christian Pastor, 56-year-old Paul Horner, had his lawyer speak to reporters on his behalf.

“We are currently disputing the guilty verdict and I am confident my client will be a free man here shortly,” said attorney Tom Downey. “Horner was just using his best judgement according to his rights and religious freedom in this country.”

The Honorable Myron Danus handed down the harsh sentence.

“Religious freedom goes both ways, Mr. Horner,” Danus told a packed courtroom. “It is not your place to deny individuals the same rights that everyone else has, rights that were passed down and agreed upon in a court of law, the ultimate court, the Supreme Court. It is not your decision whether or not you agree with the law but more importantly that you follow it and enforce it.”

According to the criminal investigation, the Christian Proctor Church is registered with the state as a “religious corporation” limited to performing “one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.”

But the church is also registered as a for-profit business and city officials said that means the owners must comply with state and federal regulations.

Steve Shand president of the Vermont Family Research Committee, said it is “open season on Americans who refuse to bow to the government’s redefinition of marriage.”

“Homosexuals are gay,” Shand told reporters. “Why should Christian ministers be forced to perform and celebrate any marriage that conflicts with their beliefs? It’s a slippery slope my friend. Pretty soon these same pastors will be forced to wed animals or kitchen appliances. This is not my America!”

Gwen Hawkins who is president of the LGBT Pride Center in Vermont said she is happy with the guilty verdict.

“We just want the same rights as everyone else and this guilty verdict sets a great precedent,” Hawkins said. “These fanatical Christians base their life on one verse in the Bible but they seem to forget the other 99% of the verses in the book. For example, why can’t we stone to death Bristol Palin for having a baby out of wedlock? And what about her mother, Sarah Palin, breaking the rules of Corinthians 14:34 which clearly state that as a woman, she is not allowed to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. But no, they like to pick the one verse in the Bible about gay people and build their camp around it.”

So much for our individual freedoms to believe as we see fit…….

Counterfeiter gets green card after evading U.S. lawsuits

This could be the story of an American dream. An immigrant family builds a successful business and buys a four-bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood with good schools for their young son. But not all is as it seems on the steep, curving streets of San Diego’s Rancho Penasquitos.

A 45-year-old Chinese woman, Xu Ting, lives in a brown shingle house with a weedy driveway. She has been sued for counterfeiting by eight luxury brands, including Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and owes Chanel Inc. $6.9 million in damages. None of this has stopped her from becoming a legal permanent resident of the United States and achieving a comfortable suburban life.

China is not the only country with a counterfeiting problem. Most fakes are made in China, but they are sold in America. Counterfeiting is not a priority on par with drug smuggling or money laundering, and is rarely prosecuted as a crime. The lack of legal cooperation with China makes it easy for counterfeiters to move their money beyond the reach of Western law enforcement — and hard to root out counterfeiting kingpins. As long as counterfeiters can stay out of jail and hold on to their profits — and consumers continue to buy — the trade in fakes will likely thrive.

Despite spending millions on brand protection, companies often end up playing whack-a-mole, shutting down producers and distributors of fakes, only to see them pop up again. Xu Ting simply refused to show up in court over the years. Instead, doing graduate studies in statistics at San Diego State University, helped her family amass at least $890,000 in bank accounts back in China, and bought the $585,000 Rancho Penasquitos house with her husband, who has also been involved in selling counterfeit luxury goods, public records and court cases in China and the U.S. show.

“There’s a million ways to game the system,” said Dan Plane, an intellectual property lawyer at Simone IP Services in Hong Kong, who is not involved in litigation against Xu Ting. “Probably the only thing that’s going to stop her is when she passes away — probably on an island resort somewhere — or if she gets arrested.”

Retro of the day: Rod Stewart

Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” is a song by Rod Stewart, recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio inSheffield, Alabama for his 1976 album A Night on the Town. The song became his second US chart topper on theBillboard Hot 100, peaked at #5 in UK, #3 in Australia and charted well in other parts of the world as well. It was the number 1 song in Billboard’s 1977 year-end chart.

According to Dan Peek of America, Stewart’s inspiration for “Tonight’s the Night” was America’s Top 30 hit “Today’s the Day“: Peek recalls that one evening when he and his guest Rod Stewart were playing together in Peek’s home recording studio: “I played ‘Today’s the Day’, the song I had been working on. Rod said that he liked it and that it gave him an idea for a song. Of course after his recording of ‘Tonight’s the Night’ came out I laughed when I remembered what he’d said. I’m sure I probably smacked my forehead and said: ‘Why didn’t I think of that'”?

Billboard Hot 100 number one single
13 November 1976 – 1 January 1977

Billboard Hot 100 Year-End number one single
1977