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Woman 'wins' forfeiture case, seeks lawyers' fees - WND
The Institute for Justice is asking the Supreme Court to review a government forfeiture case the government already has lost.
But in forcing Miladis Salgado to fight in court, the Drug Enforcement Administration has cost her $5,000 of the $15,000 agents originally tried to confiscate. And the feds, according to the complaint, have refused to reimburse her.
IJ said Salgado in 2015 lost $15,000 that was confiscated from her home – she had been setting aside her life savings for her daughter – because someone claimed her husband was a drug dealer.
"He wasn't, but that didn't stop the Drug Enforcement Agency from filing a civil forfeiture complaint in an attempt to keep Miladis' money forever," IJ said.
But, "without any savings, the only way she could afford an attorney was to hire one on contingency. After two years of legal wrangling and countless sleeplessness nights, she won her case. The court was finally about to rule in Miladis’ favor, so the DEA admitted that there was no evidence of a crime and agreed to give back her money, but in doing so, it refused to pay her attorneys’ fees. That meant Miladis would receive $10,000 of her money back, but the remaining $5,000 would go to her attorney, who had represented her in court," IJ said.
Since the money had been taken unfairly, she insisted that the government reimburse her for her losses, and the case is now before the Supreme Court.
"The threat of paying attorneys’ fees is a critical check on government abuse," said Justin Pearson, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. "Otherwise, there is no disincentive to stop prosecutors from filing frivolous civil forfeitures against property belonging to innocent owners like Miladis.
"The government can’t take your property, keep it for years, and then suddenly give it back and pretend like nothing happened. Seizing someone’s property and forcing them to hire an attorney for two years to get it back has real costs," he said.
The 2000 Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act requires the government to pay attorneys' fees to anyone who challenges a forfeiture in court and wins, IJ argued.
"The provision was intended to provide a disincentive for the government to file baseless forfeiture lawsuits, but federal prosecutors have gamed the system. When prosecutors realize they may lose in court, they often prolong the case in hopes of forcing a settlement that will allow them to keep part of the innocent owner’s money. But if the innocent owner doesn’t give in, then the prosecutors will voluntarily return the property just before the court rules," IJ said.
"In doing so, they deprive the owner of a 'win,' and subsequently argue that without a 'win,' CAFRA’s fees requirement doesn’t apply."
Dan Alban, a senior attorney for IJ, said, "By gaming the system and denying property owners a ‘win’ in court, federal prosecutors have found a way to short circuit judicial oversight of their activities, while at the same time preserving their ability to continue to abuse Americans’ property rights.
"This is the equivalent of the government claiming, ‘no harm, no foul,’ when in reality there is very real harm done to the thousands of Americans that challenge civil forfeitures in court," he said.
In recent years, IJ has challenged "illegitimate civil forfeitures" all across the country.
"In nearly every case, once IJ became involved, the federal government quickly capitulated and returned the property to IJ’s clients, while at the same time it fought any attempts to recover attorneys’ fees," the organization said.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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