Tracker Pixel for Entry

Policing for Profit

News | December 20th, 2018

design by Raul Gomez

by Jacques Harvieux
jacquesthejock@gmail.com

For those unfamiliar with civil asset forfeiture, it is the process in which law enforcement officers take assets from a person. These “assets,” range from literal cash to private property such as vehicles, houses, and small possessions. In every case it is a person’s private property being taken by law enforcement.

The property is often taken based upon mere suspicion of said person’s involvement of a crime or illegal activity. What is even more frustrating for the victims of civil asset forfeiture is the person’s ability to regain their possessions after they have been taken.

An article from August 11th, in US News titled, North Dakota Case Highlights Civil Asset Forfeiture, highlights the story of New York resident Aaron Dorn.

Dorn was arrested on Thanksgiving Day in 2016 in Mandan during the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Dorn was alleged by a state trooper to have tried to swerve and ram the officer’s car off the road. In June of this year, over two years later, Dorn was acquitted of all chargers, but getting his truck back is a whole other battle in itself.

Dorn filed civil proceedings in November 2017 for his truck, but to no avail. There still has been no success in getting his truck back. The state has essentially seized property from an innocent man and continued to hold it without cause.

Rep. Rick Becker (R) of Bismarck has formulated a bill to reform civil asset forfeiture. Becker’s bill would pass the ND House in 2017, but garnish zero votes in the Senate. He plans on proposing a bill again in 2019.

“I think the biggest issues of civil asset forfeiture being considered ‘constitutional’ are proportionality. Essentially, the government taking property that’s way in excess of value compared to maximum statutory limit of a fine. Secondly, burden of proof in due process issues, in criminal cases the prosecution has to prove the case ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ In civil cases to seize property they typically just need to prove ‘preponderance of the evidence.’ The problem in North Dakota is there is a burden shifting scheme, that has lowered the ‘preponderance of the evidence,’” said Mark Friese, attorney at Vogel Law Firm and co-author of Rep. Becker’s bill.

“With asset forfeitures it’s policing for profit, they divide it up, the prosecutors get a part of it, the investigating agencies get part of it, the task forces kinda split it up. It’s to the victors go the spoils type of analysis,” added Friese.

The Institute of Justice in a 2015 Survey, Policing for Profit, among all 50 states gave North Dakota an “F,” considering issues with civil asset forfeiture, Massachusetts was the only other state to receive an “F,” Minnesota by comparison received a “D+.”

The reason North Dakota ranked so bad?

“Along with Massachusetts, North Dakota has the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country, scoring an F. In North Dakota, law enforcement only needs to meet the lowest possible standard of proof—probable cause—to forfeit property. And when property has been used for illegal activity without the owner’s knowledge, the burden is on the owner to prove her innocence in order to recover it. Finally, North Dakota law enforcement agents operate under a particularly dangerous financial incentive: Agencies receive up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds up to $200,000. If the government’s forfeiture fund exceeds $200,000 over any two-year budget period, the excess must be deposited in the general fund—encouraging law enforcement agencies to adopt a use-it-or-lose-it mentality.”

An example of an “A” is New Mexico, which received an “A-” and was the only state to do so. The State has a higher bar to forfeit property and conviction required to seize property. Stronger protections for innocent third-party property owners. And lastly, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

For now the residents of North Dakota and even some of those who live out-of-state (the case of Aaron Dorn) have an uphill battle to fight. Money is a powerful driving force, an element of abuse, whether based upon good intentions or simply just a failure to reform. The unintentional corruption creates the intentional.

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.edu Gerald Briggs, the Warren County Mississippi Fire/EMS chief, was at a festival in February 2020 when a local law enforcement officer asked him if he had heard about the explosion…

By Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu Dwight Herr interviewed his father, Julius E. Herr of Wishek, North Dakota, in June 1979. Dwight provided a transcription and donated the “Life Story of Julius E. Herr” to the Germans…

Saturday, March 1611 a.m.Downtown FargoWear something green and celebrate spring during Fargo-Moorhead’s premier parade. Thousands of spectators line the streets, so arrive early to snag a prime spot. This community celebration…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When one googles “What traits are desirable in a new employee,” some of the first words that pop up “from sources around the web” include “communication,” “team player,”…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comPoliticians could learn a lot by watching dung beetles work for a livingThe 400,000 species of beetles is the largest order of insects discovered on Planet Earth, so far. Insect researchers believe…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

The Aquarium, 226 Broadway North upstairs, Downtown FargoFriday, December 8, 7:30-11pmDoors 7:30 pm // Music 8 pm21+ // $10 advance // $12 DOSOver two decades, Christmas songs have appeared throughout Owen Ashworth’s recorded…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the pursuit of knowledge has directed humankind to new horizons – the ocean depths, the infinite reach of space, and the hidden secrets of cells and microbes…or to Artificial Intelligence, which…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Faye Seidlerfayeseidler@gmail.com On the first day of the month I ask people to thank a journalist they know or someone who contributes to papers in some meaningful way. When I grew up, my best friend's father was a journalist…