A Win for Justice

Congratulations to the Institute for Justice for an important victory against the abuse of civil asset forfeiture:

Today, the Institute for Justice dismantled one of the nation’s largest and most egregious civil forfeiture programs.  For decades, Philadelphia’s forfeiture machine terrorized its citizens:  throwing them out of their homes without notice, seizing their cars and other property, and forcing victims to navigate a rigged kangaroo court system to have any chance of getting their property back.  And the property and money forfeited was then given to the very officials who were supposed to be fairly enforcing the law.
After four long years of litigation, IJ cemented a victory for all Philadelphians this morning with two binding consent decrees in which city officials agreed to reforms that:
    1.  Sharply limit when Philadelphia law enforcement can forfeit property;
    2.  Prevent law enforcement from keeping what they seize;
    3.  Establish robust protections for the due process rights of citizens; and
    4.  Create a $3 million fund to compensate innocent people who were ensnared by the city’s abusive system.
My paper, To Serve and Collect (with Makowsky and Stratmann) suggests that this victory will not only reduce civil asset forfeiture it will also change police behavior and decision-making, altering the number, type, and racial composition of arrests.

Comments

Great news! I need to add the IJ to my end-of-the-year contribution list.

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Liar, Nobody is that big!

I wish trolls would stop coming here to make fun of our micropenises.

Just an exited bullet wound and widespread wheel disorientation.

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You know a place where I could get a good deal? The places near me all ask for an arm and leg. I just want a bigger penis.

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.... but I thought we already had a huge local/state/federal government "Justice" and court system to ensure that such gross injustices were prevented or quickly remedied ??
Why did it take a private law firm years to quash just one of many 'civil forfeiture' organized-crimes by local/state/federal governments ?
What do government judges/prosecutors/governors/legislators do for a living ?

Maybe there is more organized-crime within government than outside it.

"Why did it take a private law firm years to quash just one of many 'civil forfeiture' organized-crimes by local/state/federal governments ?"

Qui Bono? Obviously something about this particular case, it's "winnability" and hopefully it's transferability to other municipalities and regions is why. I know that similar litigation in other regions has not been so successful, precisely because of the fight put up by police lawyers and city hall.

But yeah, this is a good win, especially considering the size and scope of both the city and the corruption.

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The system sort of demands that someone actually sue in order to get the wheels of justice moving, which has both pros and cons. It essentially means that anyone (government or private person) can do whatever they want as long as nobody bothers to sue. I.e. If you can run a hog farm in your back yard as long as your neighbors don't care and don't take it to court (Pro). And the cops can go around seizing property under asset forfeiture laws, and as long as nobody bothers to sue they will get away with it (Con). Unlike the police, the courts do not go out looking for injustices to correct. Someone has to actually approach them to with a dispute.

... approach the with a suit.... plus a million dollars and an apetite for going to war with the police

The potential extralegality of the police response is an excellent, underappreciated point. Anything for a quiet life, as they say. No one wants trouble with the best-armed gang around, even if they generally play nice.

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Good news indeed. Now if they can just get the feds to dial back RICO...

Dial back rico... or actually use it (cough, wall street)

.... cough, drug companies, $600 epi pen etc!

You'd think between patent law and the FDA there'd be a way to reduce that sort of blatant anti-social rent extraction, but, alas.

For RICO to work, you would need to charge the FDA. The FDA and poor regulation by our government is how the $600 epi-pen comes about.

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I was so pissed at RICO used against DrexelBurnham I wrote a congressman and got a response, back in the early 1990s.

But AlexT's 'victory' is less than it appears, apparently it's limited to small potatoes: (from the one page settlement)

Today’s Landmark Settlement Limits What can be Seized for Forfeiture
● No seizure or forfeiture of property for simple drug possession.
● No seizures of less than $1,000 if not part of arrest or evidence in criminal case.
● No attempts to forfeit cash in amounts less than $250.
● No attempts to forfeit cash unless drugs or evidence of criminal activity are found

So for amounts greater than $250, say a stash from a drug dealer, the police can still seize it. And if it's a fence, they can seize good worth more than $1k. All in all, not much of a change IMO.

Does make it harder to close drug houses. If that is a good thing.

Does create incentives to overcharge people. Simple possession becomes intent to distribute.

Drug dealers must learn to keep bank below $250, more jobs for shorties. One holds drugs, one holds cash. They will learn new rules quickly.

A few extra patronage jobs to deal with paperwork.

Judges will sign papers handed to them by clerks mostly without reading them. Some hard luck lawyers who wander the halls will pick up some quick cash dealing with cases. Clerks will get extra "tips" Busy judges will create rocket dockets with must cases decided on technicalities or procedural errors. Every drug house will have an absentee owner or complicated ownership. DA will never try to shut down drug house unless
it becomes a red ball (a politician wants the property to change hands for some reason)

Street cops never saw forfeiture proceeds. Now politically connected "organizations" will see extra money. Could create even more incentives for politicians to redistribute the wealth.

A lot of "victims" will be trying to get the value of confiscated drugs back. Should be worth some laughs.

Will it prevent some of the worst abuses. Sure. Overall it just grows the bureaucracy and creates new incentives

Does it deal with the root cause of the problem? No

What do you mean by "drug house"? I live in an area wherr such things actually exist, and they are abandoned or untended properties which drug dealers and users squat in. Nusiance laws can be used without forfeiture to shut them down. And it's also possible to pass laws allowing criminal forfeiture post conviction when property has been put to illegal use.

Tell me how that works. Something like declared a nuisance, might need a search warrant to check on criminal activity, to court for eviction, to court to board up (who is going to keep people out? nobody), perhaps a civil suit, perhaps code violations, try to tear the house down, or transfer ownership and repeat.

Unless you are in a gentrifying area nobody will be bothered to go through the long expensive process.

Or you can try asset forfeiture and nuisance abatement also not easy

https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/how-to-get-rid-of-the-local-drug-dealer/Content?oid=875133

And in some communities, drug houses are dilapidated buildings for drug users. In many they are locations for drug deals, sometimes even in a "nice" community. in which case again good luck.

Please give examples where nuisance laws are widely used and effective at closing drug houses i.e. houses that are used to sell drugs, not just dilapidated structures that can be torn down because it is abandoned (in which case asset forfeiture is just tax delinquency)

Tell me how that works. Something like declared a nuisance, might need a search warrant to check on criminal activity, to court for eviction, to court to board up (who is going to keep people out? nobody), perhaps a civil suit, perhaps code violations, try to tear the house down, or transfer ownership and repeat.

Err yes. you collect evidence, make a case, due process etc. That's how things work. Whose going to board the house up and keep people out? What a silly question. suppose with asset forfeiture the city automatically gets a house because someone was caught dealing drugs out of it. Whose going to board it up then? Whose going to keep another set of people from ripping down the boards and setting up shop?

What you're describing are cases where people go to the effort to appear 'nice' and use a property to conduct an illegal business (I'm going to guess prostitution might be a more common example than drug dealing). Again due process here seems to demand the state do the work of proving the case. If a high end escort is arrested operating out of Trump Tower should the state of NY lay claim automatically to the entire building?

Are you really this dense?

The issue is that you add another layer of bureaucracy, you make the process more difficult. You say that is OK with you.

If it is a condo in the Trump Tower they might. If the Trump Tower management did not take steps to stop prostitution after they have been made aware of it, they might take steps to escalate. A front-page story would be more than enough to start eviction proceedings.

And there is no automatic confiscation of homes in drug cases. Stop making shit up.

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Drug dealers must learn to keep bank below $250, more jobs for shorties. One holds drugs, one holds cash. They will learn new rules quickly.

You haven't thought this out clearly. If forfeiture is an issue, that means the drug dealer has been arrested. That's a cost on the drug dealer. Bending over backwards to make sure you, a drug dealer, never has more than $250 on you when you're dealing drugs isn't going to save much. Most drug dealers at any given moment probably don't have more than $1000 on them so adopting this as a policy would save them, what, $750?

Does make it harder to close drug houses. If that is a good thing.

There is no such thing, at least in the context you're thinking of....a house drug dealers buy, own and operate to, what? Sell drugs out of? No one does that. If you mean vacant and abandoned buildings where drug dealers and/or users gather then forfeiture isn't going to do much since whoever owns the property already doesn't seem to care what is done with it.

On the flip side these laws do seem designed unintentionally to take anyone who is in a borderline case of being law abiding (say a family that is dealing with an addict) and destroy the law abiding side

Actually where open drug markets still exist having different people hold the drugs and the cash is common. It is not bending over backward anymore than a convenience store limiting how much they keep in the register at any given time. You must not know how much corner drug sellers actually net for a days work. $750 is a substantial sum to them. Plus $750 here, $750 there pretty soon you have real money.

You have no idea where or how drug markets work. Clearly, you are commenting from ignorance. Drug dealing is not confined to derelict buildings. Why do you comment out of such ignorance?

You're forgetting where an arrest takes place the drug dealer loses the drugs regardless, gets locked up, probably has bail and in the end is probably going to lose at least a few days but probably much more.

This is old news, at the street level drug dealers are basically cannon fodder (see Freakonomics and it's chapter on why most drug dealers live with their mom's and have 2nd jobs at Mcdonalds). They are used until taken out of action by a bust, at which time a new ones are thrown in.

I'm not at all clear what scenario you think this policy improvement really improves the lot of the drug dealer? These would have to be cases where the drug dealer is arrested but for some reason all charges are dropped but previously any cash confiscated would be taken by forfeiture. If charges are not all dropped and criminal prosecution ends in either a plea or guilty verdict, the drug dealer has had a very bad day.

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Wonderful news! This needs to go nation-wide, but it will probably take decades....

Now if the IFJ can get the misuse of eminent domain stopped, they deserve a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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... or enforce RICO against criminal government agencies

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Marginal Revolution, indeed! Fantastic news.

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I would be happier if part of the settlements was:
#5. Libertarians are granted the right to erect a sign saying "We told you so." on the courthouse steps.

Steven Pinker seems to have spent a lot of time aboard Jeffery Epstein’s jet.

If you want to libel Mr Pinker would you please do so under your own pseudonym?

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I suppose this will help avoid forfeiture by Trump's Russian mafia friends who invested their illicit gains in Trump real estate. When the choice is between libertarian and the rule of law.

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This site is like the wierdest combination of intellectual commentary and dick jokes.

Don't forget Brazilian propaganda and passive-aggressive snottiness.

The Penis “jokes” ARE what counts as intellectual content here. The other comments are nothing more than the pathetic rantings of beta-cucks who allow big black leftists to dominate them.

None of this is meant to imply that I can't win a debate on the actual topics. Because I can! In fact I always win the debate.

People who care about debates are CUCK-OLDS. You fetishize the old Oxford Union ways but all those Oxford students grew up to be pedos!

Not to say that I fetishize about Oxford pedos!

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FANTASTIC, ALEX, CONGRATS! A true blow struck for liberty! I'm gobsmackingly pleased!

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It's such a good blog, professor(s), shame that your kids still need potty training. Group punishment obviously did not correct their behavior. Maybe individual time-outs would work.

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Great news and great work.

IFJ is a much more effective destination for donations than politicians.

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