13 Nov 2014

“WE COULD BE CZARS” – Watch as Law Enforcement Officials Plot How to STEAL Your Stuff!

 The city attorney of Las Cruces says increasingly broad interpretations of civil forfeiture laws could be “a gold mine” for authorities across the country to seize things such as expensive cars and even people’s homes.

But his remarks during a seminar filled with local government and law enforcement officials — made with an amiable bemusement that bordered on glee — were caught on tape and have turned into a gold mine for critics who say the laws turn the justice system on its head and encourage authorities to see the personal property of private citizens as a one big money grab.

“Law enforcement officials and public officials are supposed to be about the fair and impartial administration of justice,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “But when you give people bad incentives such as what you see in civil forfeiture laws, you get what you see in these videos where people are looking for opportunities to make money rather than to pursue justice.”

“We could be czars. We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business,” Las Cruces City Attorney Pete Connelly said at one point to the seminar’s attendees who took part in the 8-hour presentation.

Connelly was one of the featured speakers, walking attendees through the process of setting up civil forfeiture ordinances in their own communities.
Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to seize personal property that has ties to alleged criminal activity even before any guilt is decided — or even if no charges have been filed or an any arrests made.

“In civil forfeiture, there is no need to convict or even charge a property owner with a crime for that owner to lose his car, his cash, his home or other types of property,” Bullock said in telephone interview with New Mexico Watchdog. “And that’s what makes civil forfeiture so outrageous and dangerous.”

It can also mean big money. One Justice Department program collected $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2012. 
Unlike criminal cases, where defendants have been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in civil asset forfeiture the state must meet a preponderance of the evidence standard to seize someone’s property. And since they are civil matters, Bullock said, defendants are not guaranteed the right to an attorney.

“Most of the time, people don’t have the financial wherewithal to fight back and go through the civil forfeiture process so they either give up or decide to settle,” Bullock said.
But it’s all legal.
Connelly told attendees that appeals courts and the New Mexico Supreme Court have upheld the law, adding that Las Cruces instituted a civil asset forfeiture statute in 2006 and has thus far collected $1 million from Las Cruces residents.

Albuquerque Chief Hearing Officer Stanley Harada, who was also at the seminar, would not tell attendees how much the state’s largest city has amassed since reforming its own law in 2002. Instead, Harada said, “I think they would rather not talk about those numbers because then it starts becoming more of a bullet-point for people that are trying to fight the program.”

But Connelly marveled at what city officials in Philadelphia have done, collecting roughly $65 million in civil asset forfeitures.
“I was amazed,” Connelly said. “Eight-thousand cases in one year, $500 a pop, is just a mind-blower. That’s 4 million bucks.”
During the course of the day, Connelly lamented how the Las Cruces police barely missed seizing a man’s 2008 Mercedes, how a well-crafted forfeiture claim “is, what I call, a masterpiece of deception” and cites a Wall Street Journal article mentioning Philadelphia. 

Read More:http://watchdog.org/182915/gold-mine-forfeiture/


  1. Policing for profit is the new norm, I suppose. Just tell the cop up front that you don't carry cash, and drive a POS vehicle.

  2. Republicans want privatized law enforcement and prisons nationwide!

    Can you imagine the level of corruption and crime that will be possible when you can buy your way out of jail or an investigation?

  3. I don't have to imagine. Every cop, prosecutor, and judge in this country is for sale.

  4. If people do not rebel from time to time they sooner than later become slaves. We are far past that point now, so bend over it is coming around again.

  5. Only if you're, "Affluenzic!"