Originally Posted by Ataturk
The standard is probable cause, an ancient fixture of our legal system that is explicitly written into the constitution. It's the same standard that allows anything else to be seized, including people (i.e., arrested). Calling it meaningless is absurd.
It's not probable cause, and you know this. Civil forfeiture, as opposed to criminal forfeiture, requires no standard to seize and hold the property. Most states require a preponderance of the evidence to eventually retain the property, but unless the civil defendant has the funds to hire an attorney and show up in court (which he probably doesn't if the cops just stole his money) then he/she loses by default.
Probable cause is determined by looking at the totality of the circumstances -- i.e., everything relevant. The fact that he was going to a place that is a hub of the drug trade is something that's properly considered.
Probable cause is irrelevant in civil forfeiture, and has absolutely no meaning in administrative forfeitures.
If he was on his way to buy drugs with it, it became mine and yours the minute he started out. Would you give this guy an unsecured loan of $16,000? I didn't think so. If he'd shot somebody with a gun would let him hold onto it until his trial? That's just absurd.
Again, this is civil forfeiture, which you keep conflating with criminal forfeiture. There usually IS NO criminal trial for the underlying criminal activity because there are no charges. And if it's an administrative forfeiture then there is no civil trial at all.
Could have fooled me. Going after the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime is a spectacularly effective way to suppress crime since it deprives criminals of the fruits of their crimes -- it's hitting them where it really hurts. Forfeiture allows for an effective way of dealing with criminal proxies and agents -- it wasn't this dope's money, of course. The idea originated as a way to suppress piracy. Do you think the owners of pirate ships should get them back after the pirates have been caught?
All you have to do is look at the results -- crime is at its lowest point in modern history.
This is correlative horseshit, forfeiture has little to do with violent crimes, which have been dropping, but everything with non-violent drug crime, which has been increasing. And all it does is encourage cops to steal shit from people who they don't like but can't prove committed a crime. That's the reason they file a civil forfeiture instead of pursue it as a criminal forfeiture, the lower burden of proof. They are abusing a process that has relevance in maybe a dozen high-profile, probably white collar crimes a year and processing it on regular schmucks at traffic stops. The average amount seized from traffic stops in Pennsylvania is $600. Not $6,000.00. Six hundred. Not a lot, but add it up over the tens of thousands taken and it helps the cops buy those fancy new guns and body armor.
It's a disgusting process that is being abused, and does not make us any safer.
And your pirate ship example is just stupid. A pirate ship would qualify as contraband and wouldn't be returned no matter what, the same with an atomic bomb or child pornography or drugs that are seized. We're talking about money, and innocuous items like cars and motels with the overwhelming vast majority of civil forfeiture.
Being arrested is a big life disruption too, but it's permissible under the same standard. There's no due process problem with cops arresting you or seizing your property with probable cause. And I'm not sure what constitutional rights you think are implicated. You keep saying due process, but there's a process in place. Courts -- in civil actions, even -- take money and property away from people every day. They even freeze assets before trials.
And after being arrested you are entitled to a trial whereby you must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right against self-incrimination, you have the right to an attorney if you can't afford one. You have a right to a trial by jury. NONE of that applies in civil forfeiture.