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U.S. Constitution
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Title: South Carolina Cops Love Asset Forfeiture So Much They Take Cash From Crime Victims
Source: TechDirt
URL Source: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/2 ... -take-cash-crime-victims.shtml
Published: Jan 31, 2019
Author: Tim Cushing
Post Date: 2019-02-05 07:02:22 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 186
Comments: 7

from the 95-percent-of-somebody-else's-stuff-is-100-percent-profit dept

You'd think we wouldn't need any more data points on asset forfeiture abuse, but since many states still allow law enforcement to steal cash and personal property from people never even accused of criminal acts, maybe more data points are needed to show lawmakers why this abhorrent practice should be ended.

The Greenville News has put together an in-depth report on asset forfeiture in South Carolina, culled from asset forfeiture cases run through the state's court system. What it found is unsurprising, but still shocking. The article opens with a small sampling of injustices perpetrated by the criminal justice system.

When a man barged into Isiah Kinloch’s apartment and broke a bottle over his head, the North Charleston resident called 911. After cops arrived on that day in 2015, they searched the injured man’s home and found an ounce of marijuana.

So they took $1,800 in cash from his apartment and kept it.

When Eamon Cools-Lartigue was driving on Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County, deputies stopped him for speeding. The Atlanta businessman wasn’t criminally charged in the April 2016 incident. Deputies discovered $29,000 in his car, though, and decided to take it.

When Brandy Cooke dropped her friend off at a Myrtle Beach sports bar as a favor, drug enforcement agents swarmed her in the parking lot and found $4,670 in the car.

Her friend was wanted in a drug distribution case, but Cooke wasn’t involved. She had no drugs and was never charged in the 2014 bust. Agents seized her money anyway.

She worked as a waitress and carried cash because she didn’t have a checking account. She spent more than a year trying to get her money back.

Cash is king in South Carolina. Law enforcement loves taking it. Under the pretense of dismantling drug syndicates, law enforcement officers are taking money from waitresses, businessmen, and crime victims. Cash motivates law enforcement efforts -- dubious drug-focused shakedowns that are often given far too much credibility by local journalists.

This is state where county sheriffs run week-long events with cool names like "Rolling Thunder" and claim they're disrupting the flow of drugs. The reality is there's no disruption. People are separated from their cash and other property, but arrests and convictions are almost impossible to find, despite the discovery of a few hundred pounds of illegal substances. In 2017, the Spartansburg County Sheriff's Department pulled over more than 1,100 vehicles during an operation, searched 158 of them, recovered enough drugs to fill a table for a press conference, but only ended up with eight felony convictions. It did end up with $139,000 in cash, which was the actual focus of the "drug interdiction" activity.

The cases gathered from elsewhere in the state tell the same story: cash-hungry law enforcement agencies taking money from people and calling it a victory in the War on Drugs. African-Americans make up only 13 percent of the state's population, but 65 percent of asset forfeiture cases target African Americans. If you're white, you're not only targeted less frequently but you're twice as likely to get your property returned to you.

Since the state's laws allow 95 percent of everything seized to go to the law enforcement agency performing the seizure, officers are far more focused on cash than securing convictions.

Nearly one-fifth of people who had their assets seized weren't charged with a related crime. Out of more than 4,000 people hit with civil forfeiture over three years, 19 percent were never arrested. They may have left a police encounter without so much as a traffic ticket. But they also left without their cash.

And it's rarely ever taken from dealers. More than half of all cash seizures involved less than $1,000, suggesting officers are more than happy to lift cash from users, leaving the flow of drug traffic completely uninterrupted.

The Greenville News has compiled several disturbing stories of asset forfeiture abuse in another article. These highlight the mercenary tactics of law enforcement agencies which often appear to take money just because they can. In one despicable episode, they searched a house after one of its residents was killed there. When officers found a small amount of drugs, they decided to take all the loose cash they could find, which included $1,700 in bag and $43 found on the kitchen counter. Then, the agency sent the notice of forfeiture to the man they knew was dead -- the same person whose murder they were investigating. It took a court to call bullshit on this and force the agency to serve notice to the murder victim's estate. Even then, the executor of his estate was only able to recover half the cash the officers took.

South Carolina is badly in need of asset forfeiture reform. Unfortunately, no one has been able to push a bill past the formative stages. Given the 95% profit ensured by current laws, any proposed reform is going to face stiff resistance from law enforcement agencies that will feel the state is stealing from them, rather than seeking to prevent them from stealing from citizens.


Poster Comment:

When a man barged into Isiah Kinloch’s apartment and broke a bottle over his head, the North Charleston resident called 911. After cops arrived on that day in 2015, they searched the injured man’s home and found an ounce of marijuana.

On what pretense did the cops decide to search the house? And with no warrant?

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#1. To: Deckard (#0)

When Brandy Cooke dropped her friend off at a Myrtle Beach sports bar as a favor, drug enforcement agents swarmed her in the parking lot and found $4,670 in the car.

Well, she didn't just "drop him off". She dropped him off then waited in the parking lot.

Turns out her "friend" was wanted on a drug distribution charge, and police arrested him as soon as he arrived at the bar.

Officers then approached her car and found $4,670 between the driver’s seat and center console. She claimed her friend gave her the money to pay her back. At the time of the seizure, Cooke worked as a waitress and didn’t have a checking account. But she had $4,670 to loan her friend. Hmmm.

Here's a simpler explanation: She was driving her friend around to sell drugs.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-02-05   9:57:42 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: misterwhite (#1)

Here's a simpler explanation: She was driving her friend around to sell drugs.

Her friend was wanted in a drug distribution case, but Cooke wasn’t involved.

She had no drugs and was never charged in the 2014 bust. Agents seized her money anyway.

Computer Hope

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2019-02-05   10:06:14 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Deckard (#2) (Edited)

She had no drugs and was never charged in the 2014 bust. Agents seized her money anyway.

She was driving him around while he sold drugs and brought the cash back to the car. That's why she waited in the parking lot. It was drug money. She was an accomplice.

She knew what was going on, but the cops couldn't prove she knew. So they seized the drug money. She should consider herself lucky that she wasn't arrested with him.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-02-05   10:11:08 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: misterwhite (#3) (Edited)

It was drug money. She was an a accomplice.

Uh huh - so you say

Yet she was never charged. They just stole her money anyways.

Computer Hope

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2019-02-05   10:14:42 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: misterwhite (#3) (Edited)

She knew what was going on, but the cops couldn't prove she knew. So they seized the drug money.

Huh, what? There was no proof she committed a crime but the cops assumed it was drug money and stole it?

Isn't the standard "innocent until PROVEN guilty"?

Computer Hope

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2019-02-05   10:17:55 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: Deckard (#5) (Edited)

Huh, what? There was no proof she committed a crime but the cops as as as as assumed it was drug money and stole it?

They temporarily seized it under State civil asset forfeiture laws. All she has to do is provide documentation as to how she got the $4,670 and it's hers.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-02-05   12:23:02 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: Deckard (#5)

Isn't the standard "innocent until PROVEN guilty"?

That standard only applies in the courtroom.

If people are innocent until proven guilty, how can we arrest them and put them in jail before their trial? Hmmm?

misterwhite  posted on  2019-02-05   12:25:27 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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