You're Innocent, but We'll Keep Your Cash
The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 was a response to horror stories of unjustified government seizures of innocent persons' cash and property. For one, the act requires the government to show a "substantial connection" between the seized property and a controlled-substance offense. Reform notwithstanding, the horror stories continue, aided -- as Mike Cernovich at Crime & Federalism contends -- by judicial activism.
As Cernovich explains, the U.S. government is $124,700 richer and a group of enterprising Mexican immigrants is that much poorer, even though the trial judge found that the government failed to prove a connection between the money and drugs. In U.S. v. $124,700, in U.S. Currency, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge through what Cernovich sees as dubious reasoning -- saying that the trial judge made no finding as to witnesses' credibility even though he described them as "plausible and consistent."
The result, Cernovich says, was tragic. "Several poor immigrants lost their life savings even though the government could not prove that they, or their money, had any connection to drugs."
At A Stitch in Haste, KipEsquire says that the case shows that, sometimes, "the law is a ass."
"For a defendant to be penalized by the government — whether you call it 'punishment' or 'forfeiture' — for a purported criminal act, the government should, one would hope, be required to obtain a finding of criminal guilt (i.e., guilt beyond a reasonable doubt), either by guilty plea or conviction at trial."
Other bloggers who weigh in with their disapproval of the case: Hit & Run, Overlawyered and The Unrepentant Individual.
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 22, 2006 at 03:37 PM | Permalink
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