The Fifth Amendment provides for “due process of the law” to be part of judicial proceedings. It also requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use. How are Americans who have not been charged with any wrongdoing stripped of their property under civil forfeiture?
Government Highway Robbery
Under the Fifth Amendment, forfeiture of property is contingent upon the conviction of the owner of the property. However, the New Yorker published stories proving that this federal law cannot always protect people, in incidences that are being referred to as “highway robbery.” Rather than allowing “due process” to take place, police officers and government officials have taken the system into their own hands, confiscating cash, cars, and even homes.
In a small East Texas town called Tenaha, cash-for-freedom deals became a money-maker, as the practice of stopping and searching drivers, and then giving them ultimatums or simply seizing their cash and other property, became rampant. Those who were stopped were almost always Latino or black, and this was an obvious attempt at targeting those who were least likely to be able to afford legal representation and fight what Tenaha referred to as their “drug interdiction” program.
ACLU Fights Back
It was not until after numerous people had been stopped under this scandalous “interdiction program” between 2006 and 2008 that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stepped in. As the Fifth Amendment provides, none of the clients of the ACLU had been charged with a crime before their property was seized. Instead, they were accused of being drug transporters, without any evidence, and given a choice to lose their children to Child Protection Services and go to jail on false money laundering charges or other serious felonies, or to give up their property and walk free.
The settlement between Tenaha, Shelby County, and the ACLU will require police officers to perform traffic stops under rigorous rules, including with the use of video tapes. The seizure of property will also be handled in a specific manner, according to the Fifth Amendment. Hopefully, this lawsuit and the settlement terms will reduce the abuse of civil asset forfeiture in future police stops, but only time will tell.
Let Us Help
If you have been racially profiled, stopped, and your property was seized by law enforcement in a manner that violated your constitutional rights in Oklahoma, you need to contact a skilled Oklahoma City asset seizure lawyer who will fight for your rights. Contact or call the Law Offices of Robert R. Robles today at (405) 232-7980 for a free consultation.