Monday, October 25, 2021

California still plagued by federal asset seizures


A new case brings to the fore the significance of California’s landmark Assembly Bill 114 by then-Assemblyman John Burton (D-San Francisco) in 1994, which severely limited “confiscation of property” by state and local government agents. Unfortunately, this did not affect federal agents operating under federal law.

The latest outrage was sparked by federal agents in Beverly Hills against innocent Californians with safe deposit boxes in a US private vault. On September 27, the Washington Examiner reported, “Armed with a warrant, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents spent five days tearing several hundred security deposit boxes off the walls and claiming its contents.”

Prosecutors alleged that the seized goods and cash were the proceeds of illegal drug transactions. “The problem is that federal officials took stuff from people who weren’t charged with a crime.

“They are able to keep this up because of the country’s vague standards of civil forfeiture law, which allows the government to confiscate property and assets without any substantive evidence of criminal wrongdoing.”

Because of AB 114, it is very difficult to eliminate such abuses of power by California law enforcement. It was a “weird bedfellow” effort led by Burton, a Bay Area leftist, and Assembly member Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), a staunch conservative and. Retired US Marine Corps General.

The two sides came together because of the multiple cases of abuse of the Fourth Amendment “The right of people to be safe in their persons, homes, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be infringed, and there shall be no warrant issue, But on to the probable cause.”

AB 114 still allowed forfeiture, but only after a court conviction, as determined by the Fourth Amendment.

The abuse was that police agencies would “confiscate” a person’s property with the weakest evidence, or no evidence at all. The property owner would then have to go to court to get the property back, for which costly lawyers would have to be hired.

Law enforcement liked it because it was “free” money or property that was not accountable in their budget. I remember two cases I wrote about at the time for the Orange County Register. One involved Newport Beach Police Chief Arb Campbell who, according to reports in 1992, “was seen driving a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL seized in a local drug arrest.” He and others were fired for indiscretion.

Another case I reported to the Orange County Register about that time. A couple in Chino told me that the police had confiscated a small apartment complex they owned because of an alleged drug deal in a unit. They explained that they knew nothing about the deal, could not legally keep track of what the tenants were doing, and evicted the tenant when told of the allegations. His lawyer, and possibly my editorial, returned control of his property to the police, to end the seizure – this had been decimated by years of neglect.

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One drawback to AB 114 is that it cannot do anything about local police collaborating with federal agents to seize property using federal laws. I wrote about it in a 2014 Register editorial:

“Anaheim small business owner Tony Jalali has done nothing wrong. He is not charged with any crime. Nevertheless, the city of Anaheim and the federal government are trying to take his assets using federal property confiscation laws, which have been implemented in the United States.” Court sentence is not required.

“Jalali rented two medical-marijuana dispensaries in his office building on Ball Road, having evicted them after federal officials objected to the dispensaries, even though—under California Proposition 215, passed by voters in 1996. -Medical marijuana is legal in the Golden State. … The sad irony is that Mr. Jalili is an immigrant who fled Iran’s oppressive government in search of a better life. It is unacceptable that he is now persecuted in the land of freedom “

Jalali won the court and got his property back.

His and similar cases led to the passage of Senate Bill 443 in 2016, which was then signed into law by the government. Jerry Brown. Like AB 114, it was bipartisan, passing unanimously in the state Senate and 69 to 7 in the Assembly.

Unless a conviction was established in a court of law, SB 443 called for state or local agencies to “adopt property seized under state law to property confiscated under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.” agency from authorizing the confiscation of property”. “

But as the new case in Beverly Hills shows, federal reform is needed more than ever. California now has a powerful force in the federal government, including Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Sen. Diane Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). They could work with freedom-minded Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to sponsor reform along the lines of California’s AB 114 and SB 443.

Hard work improved California and can do so nationally.


John Seeler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for nearly 30 years. He is a US Army veteran and former press secretary to California State Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at [email protected]


This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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