Cultural Baggage / November 28, 2010
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.
Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker. Here in just a second, we’ll have here with us our guest, Mister Dick Carpenter. He’s with the Institute for Justice.
But, I want to just start this off with the thought that the Drug War is a cumbersome beast to wrangle to the ground but I think we have some ropes around it. I think that someday, hopefully soon, we’ll drag the beast to the Earth.
Anyway, let’s go ahead and bring in our guest now, Mister Dick Carpenter. Are you with us, sir?
Dick Carpenter: I am. How are you Dean?
Dean Becker: I’m glad to have you with us. I think it very important that people realize the, one of the other problems associated with this Drug War, the mechanism that has led people in Texas, law enforcement authorities and let me see if I have my notes here, $280 million in forfeiture funds in seven years, 2001-2007. Correct?
Dick Carpenter: That’s right.
Dean Becker: And Texas, as I say to friends, we talk about it being a bad example to follow for the rest of the stations around the country and even into Canada that listen to this program, that we have managed to do it, pretty much wrong across the board and in regards to forfeiture we’re one of the top five. Is it?
Dick Carpenter: That’s correct. Yes.
Dean Becker: Tell us a bit about some of the investigation you did in this regard.
Dick Carpenter: Certainly, well, we looked at how Texas collects forfeiture property and uses forfeiture properties from 2001-2007. It’s important to note that these numbers came directly from the attorney general’s office.
Texas law requires that Texas law enforcement agencies annually submit forfeiture reports and these reports they detail how much they take in in forfeiture and how much use and how they spend those forfeiture proceeds.
So, we made a Freedom of Information Act request from the attorney general’s office and they sent those to us and we did some analyses on those numbers. As you suggest or as you said, in that time period from ‘01 to ‘07 they took in about $280 million in forfeiture funds.
It’s important to note that most of us think of forfeiture in the criminal realm but this is – we’re talking about civil forfeiture here. It’s important to note that in civil forfeiture no one had to be convicted of a crime or even charged with a crime for them to lose their property. All that has to happen is that they’re – that they are suspected,t the property is suspected, in being involved in a crime for someone to lose their property.
So, if we think about in the drug context for a moment. Let’s say your son borrows your car and he commits a drug crime while using your car. The police can seize and keep your car even though you committed no crime. This is civil asset forfeiture. The way they do that is to convict the car of the crime and to proceed against the car as if it had committed the crime.
Dean Becker: Hm.
Dick Carpenter: So, that way they can keep the property even though that you, the owner, have committed no crime. So, you the owner, of course, have lost your due process rights in this action but time and again courts have found in favor of law enforcement agencies.
What makes it even worse is that laws in states like Texas, set up incentives for law enforcement agencies to pursue forfeiture. These incentives would be things like allowing agencies to keep most or all of what take through forfeiture.
So Texas, as you said, is among the worst in the nation and they allow agencies to keep 90% of what they take in in forfeiture. So, the concern is that by setting up these incentives, it shifts priorities away from fair and impartial administration of justice, toward the pursuit of property and revenue.
Now, we mentioned the $280 million but if we look at non-cash properties during that same time period, agencies seized and kept and 35,000 properties from 2001-2007.
Dean Becker: Dick, that’s not in the $280 million then?
Dick Carpenter: That’s not the $280 million.
Dean Becker: Wow.
Dick Carpenter: That’s excluding cash.
Dean Becker: Good gosh.
Dick Carpenter: We’re talking about cars, houses and computers, 35,000 properties during that time period. Now, in addition, this was most shocking, when we received these numbers.
Not only did they seize and keep cash and properties that I mentioned but they also earn interest on the seized and forfeited properties. That interest from 2002-2007 totaled $16 million dollars.
Dean Becker: Wow.
Dick Carpenter: So, even things they didn’t keep, they were still benefiting from, in the form of interest as well. Then to put the icing on top of that, during roughly that same time period from roughly 2000-2008, Texas agencies partnered with the federal government in something called “equitable sharing” and they took in more than $200 million dollars under federal forfeiture law.
Dean Becker: Wow.
Dick Carpenter: And the way that equitable sharing, just for those who aren’t familiar with it, local agencies can partner with federal agencies either directly or through something through called “adoption.”
Through these processes they can send a forfeited property to the federal government and receive back a percentage of that and that percentage netted Texas agencies more than $200 million during that time period, 2000-20008.
Dean Becker: Alright, once again we’re speaking with Mister Dick Carpenter. He’s with the Institute for Justice. Dick, these numbers are astounding. They’re mindboggling to be honest.
It occurs to me that I’ve heard stories of a lot of folks who are, say, traveling from Texas to Florida and they get stopped in Louisiana or the small East Texas towns and they, as you say, the money is found guilty. They’ve got more than is reasonable in their pocket or some other circumstance, I suppose and that money is then deemed to be drug money. Is that right?
Dick Carpenter: Yes, that’s how it works. So, some famous examples, there was a gentleman who was driving across Texas, he was – he lived in Tennessee, he was driving across Texas to buy a car.
So, he just happened to have cash on him in order to buy the car, something like $5000 in cash or maybe a little bit more. That was his whole purpose was just to buy a car using this cash.
He was stopped for allegedly some minor traffic incident, such as not signaling a turn or something like that. They searched his car and found this money. They put the pressure on him and he’s six hundred miles away from home.
He’s being intimidated by the police. He hands his cash over because they said that he’s being suspected of being involved in some criminal activity involving drugs.
This is a very similar story not only in Texas but also many other states, for instance in Nebraska, the Interstate 80 is well patrolled by the state patrol in Nebraska and they stop people on a pretty regular basis, looking for large amounts of cash, as you suggest, because it might be involved in some sort of drug activity.
Dean Becker: Dick, I look at it this way, that this is many times for smaller amounts, maybe less than $5000, let’s say someone had $500 and they took it.
The cost to hire an attorney and to fight this civil, is it litigation, is more than you could hope to recover. It – does that impact the situation a lot of times?
Dick Carpenter: Oh, most definitely. Folks like this gentleman from Tennessee, they’re not a home and they’re feeling intimidated by police and they probably don’t have an attorney’s number in their pocket. So, as a result they hand over the cash.
Then after the event you’re right, in that they don’t have the wherewithal necessarily to hire an attorney to fight this. What makes it even worse, is that many state laws and Texas is among the worst of these, many state laws actually stack the deck against property owner.
So, where normally we are presumed innocent until proven guilty in asset forfeiture, it’s the opposite. The owner or the property of the owner is presumed guilty.
Dean Becker: Hm.
Dick Carpenter: And the owner has to prove his or her innocence in the process.
Dean Becker: That is the money is innocent. Oh boy, I’ll tell you what. We’re speaking with Mister Dick Carpenter with the Institute of Justice. Dick, we’re going to take a thirty second break and let you get a drink or something and we’ll be right back with more Cultural Baggage.
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Dean Becker: Alright, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network. We’re talking with Mister Dick Carpenter of the Institute for Justice. Dick, I want to talk about what’s done with money and what purpose it serves.
You indicate in this massive report that you guys issues that it was 74% on equipment and nearly a quarter was spent on salaries and overtime pay. This is – this is a treacherous path there, isn’t it?
Dick Carpenter: That’s exactly right. Our concern is that the laws setup incentives to folks involved in law enforcement to benefit directly from the proceeds. That’s really the concern.
In states with good laws, one of the features that you see is that anything taken by forfeiture has to be put into a neutral fund. So, for instance they state general fund or and education fund or something like that where those who are involved in the forfeiture process won’t necessarily benefit from it.
While bad laws, Texas is amongst them, actually set up an incentive where the agencies can benefit directly and by directly can mean buying equipment and things like that but even worse is when directly means you can spend money on salaries and overtime. In that particular case, directly means personally and it sets up a very perverse incentive.
It’s important for folks to remember that one of the great laws of economics is that people respond to incentives. Folk who are involved in law enforcement are no different, this is to say – this is not to cast dispersions on those involved in law enforcement and doing the good work that they do but to say, that to say like all the rest of us, they respond to incentives and policies that set up these incentives, we think are bad policies.
Dean Becker: In way, Dick, this reminds me of, I don’t know, some of the old movies where the town officials would find ways to make a new deed or take over the property and swindle the townspeople because they were too ignorant to fight against the mechanics of the “justice” there and there are some parallels here, isn’t there?
Dick Carpenter: Well, I think it’s important to keep in mind that – I think there’s probably a difference between kind of – or levels of intentionality, I guess, is probably a way to say it.
Dean Becker: Alright.
Dick Carpenter: I think what you’re describing are people that are looking for ways to scheme or take advantage and certainly there is some of that. Tenaha, Texas for instance, there is a famous case and we feature that in an earlier report called, “Policing for Profit” that took a national look at the issue of forfeiture. There are other examples as well as district attorneys who will take advantage of forfeiture and forfeiture proceeds and use those monies to benefit them personally.
So, certainly there’s a level of intentionality there but there are others that are probably aren’t going at it with the same intentionality and I dare say criminality.
Dean Becker: Ok and again small parallels. Alright. Once again we’re speaking with Mister Dick Carpenter of the Institute for Justice. I apologize, I should have allowed you to tell us more about the work you do, about the Institute for Justice when we first started. Please tell us a bit.
Dick Carpenter: Certainly, the Institute for Justice is a non-profit public interest law firm. We dedicate ourselves to four particular areas of the law, protecting the rights of individuals in four areas.
One of those is property rights and many folks are familiar with the Institute for Justice because of eminent domain, the famous Kelo case. For instance, in 2005, was one of the landmark Institute for Justice cases. Forfeiture is also a property rights issue and one that we’re taking on quite heavily right now.
A second area that we litigate is in the First Amendment, sort of a subarea has been campaign finance laws and we’ve been involved heavily in that.
A third area is the issue – is the area of economic liberty and that’s the right to earn an honest living. So, trying to protect the rights – the Fourteenth Amendment rights of individuals who want to become – who want to enter the economy or re-enter the economy but are barred from during so because of onerous licensees and regulations.
Then lastly is the area of school choice or educational choice. So, we are proponents for school choice and allowing parents to make the most critical decision – or one of the most critical in their children’s lives, which is where their children are educated.
Dean Becker: Ok, once again we are speaking with Mister Dick Carpenter. Now, you have mentioned the “Kelo” case. Can you briefly tell me about that? I’m wondering if that’s what I’m thinking of.
Dick Carpenter: Certainly, in the Kelo case, the city of New London, Connecticut, used the power of imminent domain take Susette Kelo’s property and other properties for the purpose of economic development. They called that a legitimate public purpose. So, we said that wasn’t a legitimate public purpose.
In fact, the whole idea of public purpose is not even in the Constitution. It’s public use that is properties that will be used for a legitimate public use, such as a courthouse or road or school or something like that.
Over time public use had morphed into” public purpose” so the imminent domain could be used for properties for things such as economic developments. So, they could seize your property and then give it to an economic developer to turn it into a mall or a store or high end condos or something like that.
Dean Becker: Ok.
Dick Carpenter: Not legitimate a public use in the same sense.
Dean Becker: And Dick, and again, I’m hazy on the specifics here but I remember it was some few years back there was a gentleman, I think he won a state lottery. He had perhaps over a million dollars and he was found with a kilo of cocaine. I believe it was in his dishwasher, if I remember. They took his property. They took back the million dollars, plus because they said the ticket was bought with drug proceeds.
Dick Carpenter: Hmmm.
Dean Becker: Anyway, if you don’t remember that, I’ll try to bring that up with the audience later but it is true as far as I know. I was hoping that was the “kilo” case.
Dick Carpenter: No, it’s a different case.
Dean Becker: (Laughs) Alright. Well Dick, I wanted to get back to the fact that the escalation, the increasing revenues being derived from this forfeiture. It shows or it gives reason or belief to these law enforcement agencies that what they’re doing is ok and due to the economic crunch we’re under now. What is your thought? Is it going to escalate even further?
Dick Carpenter: I think it’s right that we are probably going to see more and more of it and if past is prologue we will certainly see more of it. I think it is important to put some of these numbers into context, by which I mean this, when we look at just the money proceeds in Texas.
From 2001-2007, the use of forfeiture or the proceeds has increased more than 176%. Property forfeiture, excluding cash, has increased almost 500% from 2001-2007.
But, if you were to look at something like drug arrests over that some time period, drug arrests have increased only 33%.
If you look at the population of Texas from ‘01 to ‘07, it’s only increased by about 12% and the crime rate, actually, the number of crimes from 2001-2007 in Texas, has increased less than 1%.
So, despite the fact that we have kind of flat crime and slightly increasing population and a little increase in drug arrests, we have an enormous increase in money proceeds and property forfeitures over the same time period that is nowhere commensurate with those other things.
Dean Becker: It’s amazing stuff, again we are speaking with Dick Carpenter of the Institute for Justice. Dick, I’m looking at a chart here from this report. Before I forget, point folks over to your website and to this report, so they can see some details that we’re going to overlook.
Dick Carpenter: Absolutely, you can find out more about IJ at ij.org and the name of the report is “Forfeiting Justice” and there is actually a link right there on the home page.
Dean Becker: And Dick, again getting back to one of the charts that’s in that report. I’m looking at the host of people who derive or benefit from this policy, district attorneys, police sheriffs, all kinds of law enforcement agencies are dipping into the trough, aren’t they?
Dick Carpenter: Oh yes, most definitely. We identify only the big players, DA, county attorneys, police sheriffs but this was even more shocking, when we actually were received the reports from the attorney general’s office.
What we discovered is, not was law enforcement agencies listed in these forfeiture reports but so were fire departments and water districts and forest service agencies and unbelievable, a kind of group of agencies that were in no way related to what we typically think about as law enforcement.
Dean Becker: Yeah, do you remember the rationale or the reasoning for the fire department or the MUD?
Dick Carpenter: Yeah, that’s a good question. It actually wasn’t indicated in the sheets that were sent to us. So, how knows exactly what what the rationale was it would require us to go to a particular case or particular agency to find out but it wasn’t indicated directly in the numbers.
Dean Becker: Ok and now we’ve been talking about Texas but let’s extrapolate this to the nation. What have you, I don’t know if you’ve been able to do a national analysis, but what’re you seeing?
Dick Carpenter: Yup, we actually have done a national analysis and it was published earlier this year in a report called “Policing for Profit”.
In that particular case what we did is, we looked at the laws of all fifty states and the federal government and we collected data, much like we did in Texas, we gathered data from the start how much they were taking in in forfeiture until state law and also under federal law through equitable sharing and we included all of that in an additional report.
In addition, what we did was hire some criminal justice professors to analyze the data with an eye toward, if there are relationships with incentives created by the law and how much agencies engaged in forfeiture.
What we discovered was, number one, the extent of forfeiture is just enormous across the states and Texas is certainly not alone, many, many, states take in hundreds of millions of dollars in forfeiture.
In 2008, for the first time in history the US department of Justice took in a billion dollars through assets forfeiture for the first time ever.
Dean Becker: Wow.
Dick Carpenter: And that’s not the only federal government or federal agency involved in this. The treasury department is involvement in it as well and they take in $400 million—
Dean Becker: (Astonished laugh) God dang.
Dick Carpenter: —in 2008 alone.
Dean Becker: Folks we have to wake up and see what these politicians are doing. “Tough on crime” doesn’t necessarily mean benefit for the rest of us or even that it’s going to do much against crime.
We have to step back and take another look at it. We’ve speaking with Mister Dick Carpenter with the Institute for Justice. Real quick, Dick, ya’ll’s website?
Dick Carpenter: You can find it at IJ.org.
Dean Becker: Dick Carpenter, thanks so much.
Dick Carpenter: My pleasure
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By It’s Side Effects
(Sounds of inhaling and coughing) Rather harsh.
(More coughing) You’ve got to sneak up on this stuff.
The answer: K2, spice or JWH-O18, the non-urine testable, synthetic version of marijuana. Surely, after its prohibition, no one will want to sell it at $50 per gram.
Grant Smith: I’m Grant Smith. I’m the federal policy coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance.
Dean Becker: Once again, it appears that the Feds, as well as several of the states, are going to prohibit this synthetic THC, are they not?
Grant Smith: That’s right. They are looking to ban five of the chemicals that are commonly sprayed the product that are known as “spice” and “K2”.
Dean Becker: What do you think is that’s creating this wave of hysteria and new law writing?
Grant Smith: This is just an example media and politicians react to an emerging substance of chemical and applied the same failed tactics and response to them. We saw that with salvia about a year or so ago and we’ve seen that with other products that have emerged on the market.
At first it is something that is relatively unknown, but the media and the politicians do such a good job on getting the word out that before we know it, everyone knows about it and then we have this sort of hysterical sort of response and the result is we have these products go underground and controlled by criminals. That’s what’s going to happen when this DEA rule goes into effect and the K2 in no longer in the light of day.
Dean Becker: Well, this is part of the fall out, the blowback, if you will, from these policies of prohibition. In the future, on one will know anything about the product being touted as K2 and who knows what our children are more likely to encounter on the black market, correct?
Grant Smith: That’s true. K2 is a Schedule I drug which will deter a lot of researchers from looking into this more to determine both the risks – the health risks but also potential benefits.
What’s going to happen is entrepreneurs, folks who are looking to get some income from selling these chemicals are going to find other chemicals that are similar to the banned chemicals but are obviously not controlled. We’ll know even less about those.
The government would serve us a lot better and serve public health a lot better by instead of banning these five chemicals, actually decide that we are going to regulate adult sales and we’re going to find out as much as we can know about it from a legal process rather than restricting the availability and criminalizing possession and distribution.
Dean Becker: Once again we’ve been talking to Grant Smith of The Drug Policy Alliance. Their website: drugpolicy.org.
(Traditional string music)
Ladies and Gentleman, this is the Abolitionist Moment:
Prohibition is awful flop.
We like it.
It can’t stop what it’s meant stop.
We like it.
It’s left a trail graft and slime.
It don’t prohibit worth a dime.
It’s filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we’re for it.
Franklin Adams - 1931
Through a wiling or silent embrace of Drug War we’re insuring a more death, disease, crime and addition. Some have prospered form a policy of drug prohibition and dare not let their stance taken in a new light but for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven but what Houston had done in the name of Drug War will never be forgotten.
Please visit endprohibition.org.
Do it for the children.
Alright, I hope you enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to once again thank Mister Dick Carpenter from the Institute for Justice and let you know that on the Century of Lies show, which follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations, we’re going to be speaking to Mister Irvin Rosenfeld one of the four federally supplied medical marijuana patients. We will also be speaking with Mister Kris Krane, a man who’s been paralyzed and who is now considered to be a threat to society because he wants to use medical marijuana
A quick announcement I’d like to make that American Freedom Radio has decided to give me a weekend slot, a couple of two hour shows on Saturday and Sunday, starting in January of 2011. I think we’re going to name the show the Silver or the Lead. Take the money or your dead, you know. Anyway, I appreciate that.
You know, you guys have to do your part. Honest to God, you know the truth now. You’ve got to speak up. You’ve got to let these politicians that you know the truth and you know that they know the truth and it’s time to bring an end to all this madness.
So, I’ll be talking to you soon and we want to remind you that as always, there is no justification for this Drug War. Wrong phrase, (laughs) because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.
Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.