State and local police in many jurisdictions regularly seize property in the course of their duties. Sometimes property is seized in the context of a conviction–for instance the taking of a car from a person convicted of a drug offense. But at other times property is seized even though no conviction has been made or even charges filed. Someone pulled over driving has more cash than the police think reasonable and it is taken on the grounds that it was likely connected to some nefarious ends.
Fenster wrote about the latter practice earlier, here and here. It is a ridiculous practice, very hard to square with due process from a constitutional point of view and simply a very bad idea in practice, as it sets up all manner of perverse incentives given that the police end up the beneficiaries of the loot.
The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Timbs v. Indiana strikes a severe blow against the first practice mentioned above. Following a guilty plea for selling under $400 of heroin to an undercover cop, the police took Timb’s $42,000 Land Rover, an asset the value of which was several times the maximum fine under the law for the crime.
Per Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy:
Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Timbs v. Indiana. The decision is potentially a major victory for property rights and civil liberties. The key questions before the Court are whether the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment is “incorporated” against state governments and, if so, whether at least some state civil asset forfeitures violate the Clause. The justices answered both questions with a unanimous and emphatic “yes.” As a result, the ruling could help curb abusivephr asset forfeitures, which enable law enforcement agencies to seize property that they suspect might have been used in a crime – including in many cases where the owner has never been convicted of anything, or even charged.
Note the phrase at the end of the quote “including in many cases where the owner has never been convicted of anything, or even charged.” The decision does not go directly at situations in which assets are taken without conviction or crime. That’s because it was decided on 8th Amendment excessive fines grounds. Excessive fines have surely been seen in cases in which assets are taken in the absence of charges, and the decision will be a useful tool to curb those situations. But what is the justification for taking one thin dime from someone that has not even been charged with a crime?
Maybe a bit higher. As one commenter at the Volokh site remarked:
In the context of civil asset forfeiture (where a known property owner is nonetheless not convicted of any crime), I think the appropriate threshold for “excessive” is about $1.00
So it ain’t over.
The fact that the decision was unanimous is a good sign. It is some evidence of a court that is skeptical of police overreach as a general matter and on various grounds. As another commenter at the Volokh site put it:
I think Civil Asset Forfeiture may have lost Vicksburg, but there’s a lot more fighting to go before it gets to Appomattox.
Steve Sailer describes what he calls the “Sailer Boast”:
Whenever there is some remarkably dumb development flabbergasting the respectable pundits, I’ve no doubt explained the entire phenomenon years ago.
He illustrates the Boast by referencing his coverage of hate hoaxes, dating back to a column he wrote in May 2004 for The American Conservative. The column detailed a fake hate crime pulled off by a visiting professor at Claremont McKenna College in California.
Or at least it appears to have been faked. For what it’s worth the police concluded as much. But the President of the college? Not so much. College presidents are expert at what Eric Eisenberg calls “strategic ambiguity”, and this president really pushed it to the edge. While she was all too willing to profess complete clarity as to the meaning of the events when they were positioned as a true hate crime once the police announced it had been faked she got all fuzzy about it.
One has to learn to perhaps live with ambiguity here, and never know the answer and reach a closure because the likelihood of actual prosecution … is very small.
You can make your own mind up on these things. I did, and still do.
All by way of presenting the Fenster Boast. For the record, Fenster covered this same hate hoax at a pre-UR blog in March 2004, two months before Sailer. Fenster’s various discussions of fake hate crimes are detailed here.
Paleo Retiree writes:
Our current s political moment has encouraged some odd couplings in political beds.
Here is leftie Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now! discussing Amazon’s more than complicity in the creation of a surveillance state. That may not seem so odd since both Greenwald and Democracy Now! are left-oriented. But I daresay most liberals and even many progressives are still enraptured by Silicon Valley’s trendiness, money or brute power.
As captured nicely in this meme.
And here is Greenwald speaking to a very receptive Tucker Carlson on the same subject.
Silicon Valley power. A left issue? A right issue? Something else?
Then there’s outcast David Duke defending new darling of the progressives Ilhan Omar for her comments about Jewish and Israeli influence on American politics.
Jewish/Israeli influence in American politics? There? Not there? Progressive? Reactionary?
But strange bedfellows do not always lie down together in crisis. Sometimes the phenomenon signifies nothing more than a happy consensus!
In a rare but welcome instance of bipartisanship senior members of both parties have united in removing per-country green card caps.
There has been an enormous effort by Republicans and Democrats — including Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO) — to ram the plan through Congress with huge donor class support.
Oh yes, the donor class. The Koch brothers are united as well in favor of removal. Silicon Valley too.
That Americans might lose out in the job scramble is not that important. Anything that can unite the parties, the Koch brothers and Silicon Valley must be meritorious. We must have consensus!
Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
One of Preston Sturges’ least known works, “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock” is a wry and tenderhearted tribute to American failure — a sort of inverse Horatio Alger story. Sturges uses the movie to comment on the persona of leading man Harold Lloyd (the movies’ quintessential optimist), the culture of the interwar and postwar years, and the gulf that inevitably divides our youthful hopefulness from the realities of middle age. (It and the 1986 “The Best of Times” have more in common than football.) Lloyd is playing an older version of his go-getter of the ’10s and ’20s. Having parlayed athletic fame into a career desk job, he’s come, in the mid-1940s, to a series of sour conclusions. He persists in talking in aphorisms, not because he believes in them, but because they’re all he knows; you sense that without them he couldn’t keep going. He’s so curdled in the juices of his habits that when his crush cozies up to him, he can’t recognize her interest. He’s rehearsed his excuse for giving up on her so many times it’s become an inevitability; he needs to mouth it, the way an actor needs to play his part (it, too, is a kind of aphorism). The movie is courageous in the way it takes on business and financial interests. Diddlebock’s boss, the wonderfully named E.J. Waggleberry (Raymond Walburn), is a man who treats his employees like parts; when one wears down, he swaps him for another. The characterization works in part because Sturges, with his Twain-like nose for guff and charlatanism, is too in love with the caricature to make it villainous. But Waggleberry’s cheeriness makes his actions all the harsher. There’s a commentary here on the deceptiveness of American manners. Like Harold’s aphorisms, those manners can be a dodge — a ruse that we use to avoid painful truths. Yet there’s also much to appreciate in our manners: they’re inseparable from that percolating national style that Sturges did so much to chronicle. Great scenes: Diddlebock ruefully removing the engraved aphorisms from the wall above his desk; Diddlebock’s long monologue about his past loves (all unconsummated); the cocktail scene, especially Edgar Kennedy’s performance as the bartender; the montage of presidential photos, with its long run of increasingly smug Roosevelts. The final section, a skyscraper-set tribute to Lloyd’s silent pictures, is marvelously staged and edited, but it’s probably not as funny as it should be, and its zaniness feels calculated. Several members of the Sturges stock company make appearances, all of them enjoyable. As Harold’s sister Flora, Margaret Hamilton seems to be auditioning for that stock company. It’s a pity this is her only credited appearance in a Sturges film.