Rethinking Civil Asset Forfeiture

Have we discussed this matter on BU? Here is today’s Barbados Advocate Editorial – Barbados Underground

Image Credit: The Economist

As appears to be customary in these parts, what Trinidadians are wont to call a “vaps” sometimes takes hold of officialdom and we are assured that the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs in a particular context will soon be at an end.

Breathalyzer testing for drunk driving; the enactment of integrity legislation for public officials to restrain corruption; the passing of essential services legislation to minimize public disruption caused by industrial action; and enhancement of the regulatory control of the private public service transportation sector. In all these respects and others too, we have been notified time and again of an imminent change to the status quo.

The latest phenomenon to be added to this catalogue of promises is the enactment of civil asset forfeiture legislation. According to a report in Wednesday’s press –“ The days of criminals living openly lavish lifestyles should be coming to an end soon if the island’s top judge has his way”.

This extract is misleading in at least two ways. First, the proposed legislation is likely to encompass not criminals only, but any individual whose lifestyle does not appear to comport with his or her apparent income or other means.

Second, the notion of civil asset forfeiture does not lie within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Chief Justice but is, rather, a matter for Parliament that will be responsible for enacting the relevant legislation.

Apart from the legislative process, the entire idea will have to be sold to the public, given its nature that is highly invasive of individual rights. While the initiative may indeed be effective to take the profit out of crime where the forfeited gains are so derived, there need not be the commission of any criminal offence at all, and the forfeiture of an asset may occur without the need for the prosecution to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that that ownership of that asset was obtained through criminal activity. A mere suspicion suffices.

Clearly, such a regime may lead to some horror stories as is recounted in one case from Arizona, USA, that employs a similar scheme. In Arizona, civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be charged with or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the state.

In this case, Pinal County law enforcement used this scheme against Rhonda Cox, an innocent county resident, to seize and keep her used truck. In order to keep her truck, the state didn’t have to prove that she did anything wrong – let alone criminal.

Cox had spent months seeking the return of her used pickup truck from the Pinal County attorney. The truck had originally been seized by sheriff deputies because her 20-year-old son borrowed it one night and replaced the hood and cover with stolen parts. Cox had no connection to the theft and didn’t know about it until the deputies told her they had arrested her son. Although she owned the truck and was innocent of the crime, the deputies refused to return her property.

According to the ACLU, “Ultimately, protecting innocent property owners from overreaching law enforcement requires the abolition of civil forfeiture altogether.”

The scheme does have its supporters, however. Writes one legal scholar, “forfeiture undeniably provides both a deterrent against crime and a measure of punishment for the criminal. Many criminals fear the loss of their vacation homes, fancy cars, businesses and bloated bank accounts far more than the prospect of a jail sentence. In fact, in many cases, prosecution and incarceration are not needed to achieve the ends of justice.”

We should discuss this further.


  • Well Well & Consequences

    The chief justice should have specified that they will seize the assets of criminals, including white collar criminals on the island who are known to be deeply involved in money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking and the total destruction of the Supreme Court through their close connections with former and current court and law enforcement officials…..a general warning for ALL criminals.


  • In Bim we call it “flying a kite”……succesive govts love to do that……if they were serious they would have done consultations with stake holders and interested parties then carry it to parliament,get it passed and then pronounce it both verbally and via the gazette……that effective x date y will happen….in my close to fifty odd years living in Bim,the only time parliament acted with alacrity is the time Tom’s grandmothers rapists were hung.


  • David

    Even in this we are behind

    Asset forfeiture has gone electronic and is mainly used by crooked policemen in developed countries to electronically steal all one’s money from debit cards, credit cards, bank accounts, under the presumption that a citizen came into these funds by some unknown, but in their minds, illegal means.

    Last years in the USA criminal policemen stole 5 billion in cash and other property this way. They can take all your assets, on the spot, without the intervention of a court. At an alleged traffic stop.

    The same thing could happen in malls or other public places using similarly invasive electronic devices to read and raid the cards in one’s wallet.


  • Well Well & Consequences

    Talking about thieves, let’s hear where and to whom all the taxpayer funded contracts and money went to, let’s hear about the coverly scam, the valery and grotto scams, let it come out for independence and the upcoming election.


  • Well Well & Consequences

    Okay….so let’s list ALL the ways insurance companies steal from their policyholders and injured claimants, yet they still want to whine when they have to pay out compensation.

    First of all the money they collect is free money, they collect this money after issuing contracts which emphatically states and promises that should the policyholder be injured or killed, should the policyholder cause others to be injured or killed…..THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL PAY.


    The insurance companies in Barbados, even though genuine, proven injuries are presented to them, even though they are liable, they spend years…and your money, trying not to pay you.

    The insurance companies compromised the whole judiciary in Barbados to achieve not paying injured people.

    The insurance companies, namely CGI Insurance compromised the former chief justice David Simmons, so as not to pay injured people.

    The insurance companies compromised hundreds of greedy lawyers too numerous to mention by name, so as not to pay injured people, they take your money and pay bribes to these plaintiff’s lawyers, so as not to pay you any money.

    The insurance companies compromised hundreds of doctors and bribed them to write false medical reports and lie on injured claimants, pay the doctors using your money, so as not to pay you your money.

    The insurance companies bribe witnesses with your money, who were not at accident scenes or who did not see what happened when someone was injured, to sign false witness statements that is then filed with the court and they prep false witnesses to turn up to a trial and lie before the court and the judge, giving false testimony, committing perjury in the supreme court…so you do not get your money.

    I have seen such forged and fraudulent witness statements, was appalled at the gall and frustrated lawyers will tell you that CGI insurance and Peter Harŕis are most famous for these illegal acts and ALL and those involved should be imprisoned for this vicious crime.

    Insurance companies have over the decades robbed Bajans of millions of their hardearned dollars, their pensions, their life savings. …..the latest insurance fraud company to steal millions from their policyholders, steal all their dreams was CLICO and the thiefing scum Leroy Parris aided by the now deceased as well as the still living.

    It’s amazing that bajans would still invest their money with insurance companies knowing the degree of theft involved and practiced by these same insurance companies…car owners are the only people who have no choice but to buy insurance, everyone else should stay away and find other uses for their money to benefit themselves, not to enrich the crooks in the insurance industry.

    So when insurance companies come out whining ever so often in the newspapers about having to pay out money, ignore them, that is what they promised, contracted and signed up with you their customers for, they just don’t want to pay you anything, they would do anything illegal to keep the money for themselves and pray you die so they do not have to pay you a cent.

    As Peter Harris of CGI Insurance keeps boasting, he can collect the money and promise to pay, but he can refuse, but he can only refuse, if you his customers whom he keeps victimizing, stealing from and refusing to pay, don’t speak out and expose him and expose insurance companies such as his who only want to collect money and don’t pay out any to injured people.


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