Washington Post Investigates Civil Seizures and Drug Interdiction

From the Washington Post Series at washingtonpost.com

Highway interdiction and civil forfeiture are not new practices.  A quick google search is all that is needed to learn that fact.  Among the myriad of news stories about new drug and cash seizures are older results like this 1996 article from The Freeman, called “Seizure Fever” The War on Property Rights”.  Recently, however, the Washington Post ran a four part in-depth series on interstate interdiction and civil forfeiture.  The series details the history of the current practice of highway interdiction, tracing its roots from 9/11, to the growth of the private interdiction training industry, to the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program and finally exposing how law enforcement are using their loot to fund and equip their departments.  There are personal stories the victims of these traffic stops; people who have had thousands of dollars and other property seized and forfeited.  There are videos from these stops and statistics detailing the millions of dollars police have literally robbed from citizens traveling on U.S. interstates.  The Washington Post does an excellent job exposing the real nature and problems with these stops in way which is understandable to the non-lawyer reader.  This is a link to the series which I strongly encourage you to read.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/

It should come as no surprise that much of what is discussed in the Washington Post series also occurs here in Iowa.  We have been on the front lines fighting this battle.  In the last several years the number of interstate traffic stop cases, or as we refer to them in the business “interdiction cases”, and civil forfeiture cases has risen dramatically.  And not all of the cases are traffic stop cases.  We now see Iowa’s civil forfeiture laws being used to take cars, bank accounts and even homes, which the police claim have some connection, often tenuous at best, to illegal activity.  At this law firm we are in the process of litigating cases to get our clients’ money, cars, homes and bank accounts back.  We have been successful as a firm in getting literally hundreds of thousands of dollars back for our clients.  We have also successfully won back clients’ vehicles and other property like computers and phones.  Law enforcement cannot be permitted to continue to use and abuse the civil forfeiture laws as a substitute for revenue generation.  There are times when forfeiture is appropriate.  As it stands now however, the process is being abused.  There are lawyers willing to take on these battles.  We are willing to take on this battle.  If you find yourself the victim of such abuse do not hesitate to contact us today.

Stowers & Sarcone PLC – 515.224.7446

Lee County Iowa Narcotics Task Force on Ebay?

I recently came across a two articles alleging the Lee County Narcotics Task Force is selling property it has seized (and presumably forfeited) on ebay.  These links are here and here. Lee County is a small county in the far south east corner of Iowa.  It is home to the City of Keokuk (not to be mistaken with Keokuk County).  I used to get speeding tickets in Lee County on Highway 27/218 “The Avenue of the Saints” driving back from college in St. Louis.  Anyway, Lee County, with a population of about 35,000 people, has it’s own dedicated narcotics task force.  It seems, at least according to the articles, that the narcotics task force is seizing private citizen’s property to sell on ebay to cover county budget shortfalls.  It doesn’t strike me as particularly odd that drug officers would be seizing and selling private property to cover budget shortfalls.  However, publicly selling these items on ebay isn’t something I’ve ever seen before.  So, like any good defense attorney, I did a little investigation.  Sure enough, the Lee County Narcotics Task Force has an ebay page. Looks like business is slow right now as they are only selling one item.  I have to say even I’m a little surprised, but only a little.  What do you think?  Leave your comments below.

Lee County Selling Its Loot on ebay
Lee County Selling Its Loot on ebay

What is Criminal Interdiction? Part II:

In my first post I started off with a definition of criminal interdiction but I didn’t really elaborate much beyond that definition.  That’s in part because it’s not a topic that lends itself to a short explanation.  On the Iowa Criminal Defense Blog I have posted written descriptions (here and here) of what typically happens during an interdiction stop.  Instead of simply blogging about what happens during a criminal interdiction stop, I thought I’d show you one.  The video below was shot in Illinois by an amateur film maker.  It is humorous and disconcerting.  I will break down the officer’s actions in subsequent posts.  For now watch the video and let me know what you think.