Civil asset forfeiture is a product of the American “war on drugs.” We have covered this subject in recent months due to the passing of Senate Bill 443. The bill went into effect in California at the beginning of the year, prohibiting law enforcement from seizing assets valued at less than $40,000 without a criminal conviction. Just one of many steps being taken across the country in recent years to protect Americans from unlawful seizure of property.
As we have mentioned in the past, civil asset forfeiture laws and rules were written with drug dealers in mind, specifically gangs and drug cartels. However, there is significant evidence of law enforcement agencies, both federal and local, using the practice to turn a profit. It has been shown that most of the money and property being seized is coming from average Americans—not drug dealers.
In fact, a video has gone viral showing at the University of California Berkeley police officer taking cash out of the wallet of a hot dog vendor recently, ABC 10 reports. The crime: operating without a license. The police officer confiscated the vendors $60 as “suspected proceeds of the violation.”
Did the Police Officer Break the Law?
A number of people have been chiming in, responding to what they saw in the video. Many asking: under SB 443, did the UC police officer break the law? Due to the fact that the vendor had not been convicted of a crime, only cited. And the proceeds in the bacon hot dog makers wallet only added up to $60 (far shy of the required $40,000), it would seem that the police officer had no right to confiscate the vendor’s proceeds.
Please take a moment to watch a video below:
If you are having trouble watching, please click here.
As an aside, California was ranked second worst regarding civil asset forfeiture laws, according to the Institute for Justice (IJ). Something that the state hopes SB 443 will fix in the coming years.
Was Your Property Unlawfully Seized?
As you can see, SB 443 has not stopped some police officers from unlawfully seizing property. It is likely that the “hot dog” case is not an isolated event. If you feel that your property was seized illegally, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.