Issa on Washington Journal Discussing Civil Asset Forfeiture
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Issa on Washington Journal Discussing Civil Asset Forfeiture


and we’re back with Congressman Darrell
Issa a Republican of California. Thanks for being here sir so you wrote about
civil asset forfeiture Let’s start with what it is well it can be at times highway robbery.
It allows law enforcement based on their suspicion that something is being used
in a crime no arrest had no probable cause and some cases just $5,000 $10,000
$20,000 in cash or maybe somebody’s home and in these egregious examples because
there are no safeguards on the law federally or in some cases state what
happens is the police can simply say I’m going to take your cash and they have
done it in various amounts of the most egregious the washington post had was a
Christian band had 53,000 he just collected for a an orphanage and it was
taken and if not for the public outcry it might have been months or years or if
ever before they would have gotten it back but it it’s a it’s a strange in the law in which we want the assets
let’s just say a car filled with drugs we want it to be able to be seized and
we’ve allowed for that asset never to be returned if it was part of enabling a
crime any more than we want a gun to be put back
in a criminal that used it for a stick up but the safeguards that the absence
of of a of a judge ruling the presumption of innocence all the things
that we assume you and I have. Your money doesn’t or your car doesn’t or
your home doesn’t. And in the case of the one example where a son was doing
something wrong. He had $40 worth of heroin he was outside his home but they seized
the home without notice evicted the parents and you look and say wait a
second here first of all parents take a lot of responsibility for their their
children and and and they should but what was necessary to evict somebody from
their home? It was it was being used a good fact to punish the parents to make them
throw their child out of the house and not let him back in and it it really is
those kinds of examples where you say police normally do the right thing but
when they do the wrong thing how do we make sure that there’s a safeguard to
safeguard that doesn’t cause you to have to spend your life savings to try to get
your money back explain its legislative history i mean
how did this these laws get on the books in the first place? They were well-intended
laws because they can you imagine being a policeman before asset forfeiture
federal and state and you gotta give if you will be getaway car back to the
criminal you’ve got to give but just say that you go into a bookie operational
you go in and you can this would be the only the best one you go when you find a
pound of of some drug and 50,000 in cash in the same bag well you know where the two were
connected so you sieze both of them and at the end of the trial if that cash used to make victims whole or in some
other way of course you’re going to keep it that was the intention and the idea
was that you would seize the cash not your money out of your bank account but
cash or other assets it’s been used sometimes simply to strip potential
defendants of all of their ability to defend in some cases and I think the
most egregious part of this is they in with the exception of a few states
California being one that tried to reform they never have to bring the
charge against you in order to keep if you will be your assets a suspected of a
crime. You go away to second where is my presumption of innocence? and where is my
my personal properties presumption of innocence? And you know in a sense if
police believe those are the words police believe and police have a
conflict of interest here because the police and their marriage law
enforcement agencies this is a big asset for their budget they’re actually
getting if you will slush funds monies that are not appropriated that they can
spend where they feel they need to they can spend it so it’s it’s sort of like
it if every time a copy of your ticket all the money went to to their
benevolent society you go wait a second here is he writing tickets to benefit
himself so we need to do a couple of things and some states have done this
but we need to do it federally we need to put safeguards in so the police
abuses quickly step we need to make sure that the person who feels they
wrongfully had money taken away starts off with a quick remedy to get it
back it doesn’t cost them a fortune and we need to take away the incentive for
these funds to always end up essentially benefiting the entity taking it
california has acted did that stop it would have stopped it except california
law enforcement in order to continue doing this simply switch to the federal
law and california has an prohibited them from essentially using this back
door and this is the reason that legislation that will be working on in a
very bipartisan basis will be about closing the back door performing at
federally and also if a state chooses to go further telling the state officials
that they can’t go further using any federal ball then they could use using
state because we don’t want to be circumventing the state’s why is it that
states can circumvent their own laws and fall back on this federal law it’s
basically a joint venture program that allows them under federal law to do a
revenue-sharing so they can use the federal law and then they get 65 percent
of it back you know I don’t want to disparage law enforcement because this
these laws are being used properly most of the time the problem is most of
the time just isn’t good enough when it’s your civil rights when you’re a young
musician going across the country on a train and the only crime you have as
being the only black man on a train having bought a one-way ticket for your
dreams on the west coast and you got a $16,000 all in cash and they take it
away and when you ask well how are you going to live you don’t even have a
return trip and they say that’s your problem or worse than that $50,000 that a man in Nevada had one in
in gambling winnings taken away from him and he’s told if you don’t say anything
at all take your car but he did say something and of course in this case
it’s pretty obvious that police probably didn’t intend to disclose that $50,000
it was just cash they were taking they ended up in that unusual case not only
returning the 50,000 that was taken at gunpoint from a car but paying his legal
fees because he stood up and I think they were embarrassed but each of these
shows the need for reform you can’t have police simply seizing cash in telling
you to go on so we’ll make it to the floor having had insurance insurance is
from the speaker that you can get this legislation we have a bipartisan group working on
criminal justice reform Jim Sensenbrenner a heads a lot of it and
this is part of criminal justice reform there’s no question that all that just
like so many other things where you have good programs and then you see
challenges are things that end up wrong every so often you have to say okay it’s
time to fix these this is a program that needs to be fixed federally and hopefully the states will
follow let’s get to call John’s first in
Great Falls Montana independent hi John how you doin representative here
greatest respect goes out to you and your colleagues I I have a problem a personal problem with this whole thing
is the color of law that these people are using now that you started up a new
business and and I have a public official wanting to enter my property
because I was moving some turn around and they probably sheriff and they tried
to get on my property which I wouldn’t allow it to they didn’t have a search
warrant they didn’t they had no respect for the rule of law and what they’re
doing under the color of all right now is appalling and I’d like to comment on
on how the color of the law is being changed by these public bureaucrats and trying
to enforce these nonsense laws that’s going on it’s also works with the forfeiture law and we don’t the color of the law works for them they’re gonna take
as much money as they can. It’s nothing more than rubbing under the guise of
being a public official think well as the caller has a very good point we have
a balancing act we want to support law enforcement we do at the same time the
courts and the lawmakers federal and state we have an obligation to find
these balances inspectors going on people’s property yes we with rare
exceptions like a fire we want to make sure that they go on with appropriate
notice and the like and at a civilized asset forfeiture sort
of this particular one working on but you see it with the encryption fight and the Department of Justice where
congress is saying yes we want you to succeed but there have to be limits in
the constitution and and fair balance of history support that the caller brings
up a point that the court has also weighed in on you know law enforcement
bless their hearts they’ve tried to do certain things we wanted and they tried
to do was find basically pot growing in homes by flying over them and looking
for hot spots and the court said that’s not probable cause and no you can’t just
fly over looking for it and then go into people’s homes so it’s a balanced we
want to give law enforcement lot of power and the courts but but the courts
and Congress have an obligation to balance it and that’s what we’re doing
here is trying to bring some balance back not to eliminate programs at work
but the rain in potential abuses and civil rights violations did seem to have
occurred not always but off it and is next in Columbus Georgia Independent
morning sandy the morning I see it all the time in Columbus Georgia drug dealers here ok then it turned out
that TV you’re getting confused by the feedback there I’ll tell you how much I
write downs and I did you know I just in time in Columbus Georgia thats afford any jump school so yes the lot of
red clay there but that’s not what you want to talk about the police have had
enough job to do it but sometimes say over reach and they go too far like
addict and an RBI double in his pocket and cash they have any right to take a
parent’s home from game because it came without a doubt I think a jail and try
and do all kinds of cases I got going on like hearing this masculinity we’ll leave it for banning
it four times to fight with George ok so is it a frequent occurrence all over the
country can be and and of course asset forfeiture can some times being used as
a bargaining tool to get somebody to plead out or to do something else and
there are some other areas we’re not covering reform in and the caller in
addition to pointing out the size of Fort Benning in the home of armor now
was also bringing up a point when you attach homes to civil asset forfeiture
it’s particularly important that we do process work differently than it has
it’s one thing to say that if you’re if you’re using your home as your base of
operation to do criminal activities civilized and simple asset forfeiture
will continue to allow for that home to ultimately be taken away as part of your
criminal activity no one expected to change that but there have been some
problems in that area the caller pointed out one of the most egregious where the
parents of a child and $40 worth of heroin does not make a big criminal
enterprise seizing the house and evicting the parents was certainly
egregious if the child is is is ultimately convicted if in fact it shown
that the parents had some complicity in it then one could make a stretch as to
the asset but we’ve seen in some cases is apartments are being rented to
somebody and the entire apartment door apartment complexes seized and you know
without the due process of luck was the owner benefiting from it involved in it
we have to make a connection in civil asset forfeiture between a crime and the
owner or reasonable care now having said that everyone that runs out Jets knows
that if they get caught carrying drugs they’ve just lost it yet so there is a
certain amount of if you’re in business to rent things you you do some reason the process but could you
imagine if we state police were able to seize every hertz rent-a-car simply
because somebody rented it and then had drugs in it we’ve got a set longings the
caller brings up the point that police have a hard job we want to make sure
they can continue to do their job we want this tool to work when appropriate
but more than anything else we want to make sure that a judge a person who is
not going to benefit from it is defined as a neutral is early involved in the
question of was that policeman’s reasonable belief reasonable virginia
beach John democrat you’re on the air with a congressman morning comes from a
nice morning John if you and I agree on something there’s great potential for
bipartisan resolution on this issue while in the tourney and as an attorney
I was found it difficult to obtain the regain the property that’s been taken
from my clients are the reason is expensive if the government test the
seizure of say $10,000 or they could test it costs $1000 to recover the
property in legal fees is no provision for public defender to this all on
behalf of clients or any type of a quarter point represents so this course
is the example the african-american man $60,000 take away from the problem is
yes I remedy because turning attorney will be economically viable for this
matter i’ve experiences where representing federal court defendants
whose had $60,000 cash seized from them and because of bad said that he has sixty thousand dollars
whereas as they have access to qualify for public defender so I go before the
judge asking again haha republican liberty has these assets he takes some
of these assets to pay legal fees the judges go in there with my potential
Big D case I’m sorry I’m sorry to have to smile a little bit at the paradox you
you find yourself in because this is one of the complications money needs to have
the same rights as humans in fact it’s human beings money and that’s where this
isn’t there’s not a presumption of innocence for the money or the home
there’s not a presumption that that you are entitled to counsel for withholding
and in our case one of the reforms on a very bipartisan basis Elijah Cummings
and other members democratic members and I agree on this what we want to do is if
you don’t make the charge you don’t get to keep the asset and I think that’s an
important one is to claim that its criminal in nature but the only way I’d
let somebody keep that asset is it the guy says that money that dope in a mine well you may not have to charge the
person but you ought to be able to keep the money in the dope that somebody says
isn’t theirs until somebody comes to claim the pair you’ve got a very good
point though it should be reasonably presumed that money belongs to an
individual and is not criminal unless there’s a fair showing now one of the
challenges is you really do have a a fair showing when you when you have a
rest but so many examples we see there isn’t even a rest it’s simply give up
give up this and will let you go and that’s gotta stop

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