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Constitution Thursday – Excessive Fines & Civil Forfeiture

“nor excessive fines imposed…” – 8th Amendment

A professional musician travelling with $91,000 in cash he was going to use to buy a recording studio is stopped in Wyoming for a seat belt violation. The Police take the money, and claim that they have a right to it.

in Indiana, what happens when a young man sells four grams of heroin to an undercover cop? Obviously, he gets busted, does a year on house arrest and pays a fine. Then he decided to get his life back together and heads out to find a new job.


The cops weren’t done. They used Civil Forfeiture laws to seize his car, valued at $40,000. Don’t read too much into that value, there is a valid reason that he had the money to buy it in the first place.

He sued, and the lower State Court held that he should get his car back. After all, it was only 4 ounces of heroin. The Law enforcement agencies appealed it to the State Supreme Court.

The highest Court in Indiana, along with Mississippi, Michigan and Montana proclaimed that the 8th Amendments prohibition against excessive fines “does not apply” to it.

And so… we’re off and running to ask the Supreme Court one question: does the 8th Amendment prohibition against excessive fines apply to the States?


A Rabbi, A Roman and a Poor Guy…


California Legislators are looking at the idea of doing away with Bail as we know and practice it today. They see it – the bail system – as simply a punishment meted out upon poor folks.

The idea of once again contrasting and clashing rich against poor has Dave going back in time to just after 70 c.e., in the Roman Province of Judea, where the new Roman Governor once asked a local Rabbi why is was that the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t just take care of poor people Himself instead of having the rest of the Jews do it for Him? Read the rest of this entry

Schrödinger’s Police

Predictions are iffy things, at best.

Our natural confirmation biases cause us to learn and remember when the occasional prediction of something is correct; but it also leads us to ignore and/or forget about the vast majority of times when a said prediction did not come to pass.

So in some ways, the idea of predictive policing makes a great deal of sense. But only up to a point. Now we are using “predictive policing” software to not just predict crimes, but to supposedly prevent them from occurring based on algorithms and some form of computerized statistical analysis and flat out assumptions.

When you inevitably reach the limit of technology as far as policing goes, and the predictions become less about what may happen in the near future and more about what has happened in the past, perhaps even far in the past, a line is dangerously close to being crossed. That line is, of course, our Constitutionally protected fundamental rights of privacy, and protection against government abuses.

If we could be assured that there is no assumption of guilt based on the predictive policing software, it wouldn’t be so controversial. However, as we now see and despite assurances to the contrary, such is not necessarily the case.

More and more we see that Policing has become less about “Law & Order” and more about “preventing another 9/11.” In one case, going so far as to create a black site, arresting as many as 3600 American citizens on American City Streets and subjecting them to torture and other violations of fundamental Constitutional rights – all in the name of “prevention.”

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