BUSTED: Forfeiture Laws Encourage Policing For Profit
By Charmie Gholson
Published Fall 2010
The Midwest Cultivator
Ed Boyke, a former General Motors employee who served in the Navy, became disabled in 1996 after undergoing two brain surgeries due to a tumor and epilepsy.
Boyke was approved for medical marijuana due to severe sciatica due to a pinched nerve. He was diagnosed by the Mayo clinic in Minnesota and is caregiver for himself and for one additional patient.
On April 15, Boyke stepped outside of his Saginaw Township home and was surrounded by Saginaw County Sheriff’s deputies and U.S. DEA Agents. With weapons drawn, they served Boyke with a federal warrant to search his residence, based on confidential information that he had violated marijuana laws. They handcuffed Boyke while they executed the warrant.
The DEA agents surveyed his home, said they wouldn’t pursue the case and left. The Saginaw County sheriffs department stayed to “see if he’d broken any state laws,” and according to Boyke, “started tearing the place apart.” They smashed his grow operation and a humidifier, dumped out dresser drawers and emptied closets in two rooms. They taunted him about who he voted for in the last presidential election.
When the officers left, they took with them: two lawn mowers, a leaf blower, an air compressor and generator from his garage, his 2008 Chevy Impala, $62 from his wallet, his marijuana plants, hunting rifles and ammo, his harvested marijuana, Boyke’s medical marijuana card and paperwork, a generator, a paint sprayer, a dehumidifier, growing apparatuses, scales and a 42-inch Panasonic TV. “They asked me for the key to my girlfriend’s car too, but I didn’t have it,” he says. “They told me I was lucky ‘cause they would have taken that too.”
The deputies returned the next day and asked Boyke how much money he had.
“When they came back the next day threatening to take a lien on my house,” Boyke recalls, “I called this one lawyer, Tom Frank in Saginaw and asked him about the $5,000 they wanted from me. He said, ‘I’ll run over and talk to them.’”
Frank didn’t call him Boyke back; instead the detectives called and asked if he had the money. “I was worried because they were threatening to take my house,” he says. “That Sheriff said ‘Make sure it’s cash, then we’ll bring your stuff back.’”
Boyke gave them $5,000 in cash, and they returned his car, the lawn mowers, leaf blower and air compressor but they didn’t return his TV or rifles. He says everything except the car was old junk from the garage. One of the rifles, however, was a present and heirloom. Boyke’s wife passed away at the age of 36 and the rifle had been a gift from her father. He says he pleaded with the department to return, “ just that rifle, but they told me, ‘your guns are gone.’”
“They didn’t give me a receipt,” he says. “I had to go down and get that myself.” The receipt is for storage and impound charges.
Michigan forfeiture laws require contesting property owners to file a claim with the county clerk within 20 days of a seizure, a copy of the claim with the prosecutor’s office, and pay a bond, ranging between $250 and $5,000, which is reimbursed if they appear in court. When Boyke learned this, and after reading in the paper that he had received legal advice prior to paying his “impound and storage” charges, he was furious. He hadn’t received legal advice. He drove to Franks' office.
“Frank told me he didn’t tell the sheriff he was my lawyer,” Boyke says, “but Frank could have told me I had twenty days, the detectives could have told me, I would have disputed it, but they didn’t tell me bunny muffin. I don’t know those laws, I’m not a lawyer, and that lawyer never called me back.”
Saginaw County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Randy F. Pfau told the Saginaw times that no one forced Boyke to pay for the return of the items. Property owners “have every right to take it to a formal hearing with a judge,” Pfau said. “By coming in and paying that $5,000, he’s waiving that right.”
Saginaw County Sheriff William L Federspiel says medical marijuana users are not his department’s targets. “I wish we could just say, ‘Hey, this guy’s got a card, don’t even bother with it,’ but unfortunately we don’t have that option,” Federspiel told The Saginaw News. “So we follow through, because you know what, it’s still against the law, unless you have the medical marijuana card.”
But Boyke did have a medical marijuana and caregiver card, until police confiscated it during the raid.
Pfau also said it is department protocol for deputies to destroy or seize all marijuana-growing related items when they perform a search or seizure at a suspected grow operation.
Federspiel maintains the department’s investigation indicated Boyke was in violation of the law, illegally possessed marijuana and was thereby subject to forfeiture law. To date, however, Boyke has not been charged with any crime. According to Michigan state forfeiture laws, he may never be.
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws are some of the most egregious in the country. In March 2010, The Institute for Justice released Policing for Proﬁt: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, the most comprehensive national study to examine the use and abuse of civil asset forfeiture, and the ﬁrst study to grade the civil forfeiture laws in all 50 states and the federal government. Only three states receive a B or better. Michigan received the lowest score possible: D-.
Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but civil forfeiture turns that principle on its head. With civil forfeiture, your property is guilty until you prove it innocent.
The report chronicles how state and federal laws leave innocent property owners vulnerable to forfeiture abuse. These laws encourage law enforcement to take property to boost their budgets. The report finds that by giving law enforcement a direct financial stake in forfeiture efforts, most state and federal laws encourage policing for profit, not justice.
In Michigan, law enforcement receives all proceeds of civil forfeiture to enhance law enforcement efforts, creating an incentive to pursue forfeiture more vigorously than combating other criminal activity. The report says Michigan multi-jurisdictional task forces work extensively with district attorneys and police departments to forfeit property, resulting in more than $149 million in total forfeiture revenue from 2001 to 2008.
Americans accused of using drugs also have much to fear from informants, such as the “concerned citizen” that tipped police to Ed Boyke’s “illegal activity.” Asset forfeiture laws allow police to seize money and property from anyone merely accused of drug activity.
In 2007, Saginaw Sheriffs and Prosecutors reported earning $53,797 net proceeds from their multijurisdictional drug task forces, like the ones who raided Boyke.
2008 proceeds totaled $75,598.
Hello and Welcome To Another Edition Of:
How Police and Prosecutors Decrease Public Safety - Kent County Edition
I’m your Host, Charmie Gholson. Let’s get started.
Attorney Michael Komorn is arguing a racketeering case in trial this week in Kent County. Here’s an article about it. Never mind the obviously slated reporting, if you can, but go ahead and try to calculate the resources it took to investigate, raid and prosecute this 52-year-old woman. Remember, she did not commit any violent or non-consensual crime.
Now I want you to take a good look at what was going on in Kent County during the time law enforcement was focusing on these consensual, nonviolent, so-called crimes. Here are the arrest rates for the past two years in Kent county, so you can see these numbers don’t change. Where do you think police should be focusing their efforts?
First number = number of reported incidents for each crime
Second number = number of arrests
Confused? Don’t’ be. You see, Michigan is a great place to live if you’re a rapist, but not so much if you’re a legal medical marijuana patient or caregiver. Here’s why:
After the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (The Act) was passed with overwhelming support in 2008, we saw one after another attacks on patients and caregivers in the forms of horribly violent raids and over the top prosecutions. We honestly thought with the passage of our Act, police and prosecutors would leave us alone.
FUN FACT: Michigan has seen a 17% increase in marijuana possession arrests rates since 2008, the year we passed our medical law.
It wasn’t until Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish spelled out the strategy to remove protections provided in the Act at a Michigan Municipal League Seminar in September 2010 that we understood how brutally dedicated to maintaining the failed drug war our law enforcement is here in Michigan. They were not, under any circumstances, going to respect the will of the people.
Here’s that video of Mish’s presentation. She comes in at the 37-minute mark. Mish repeatedly called for arrests and prosecution of medical marijuana patients and caregivers under both state and federal law and urged some 75 municipal leaders in that room to join in a lawsuit to challenge the Act base on Federal Supremacy (meaning that federal law supersedes our state laws). She instructed prosecutors to appeal medical marijuana cases when dismissed in order to work these cases to the highest courts, with the hopes that the courts would redefine the Act in accordance with their narrow interpretation. She also gave suggestions as to what types of offenses police can write in order to create tests cases; such as a when a caregiver’s spouse lives in the house where medicine is grown and has access to the plants, even if they are in a closed, locked facility.
It’s been an effective campaign. Case after case has reached the higher courts, and law enforcement continues to arrest, raid, incarcerate and extract thousands of dollars from Michigan families who thought they were protected by the law.
That’s all for me today. Please contact your legislator and share these crime statistics. You can find statewide numbers in this blog right here.
WHAT IS POLICING FOR PROFIT?
HOW DOES IT IMPACT PUBLIC SAFETY?
Michigan Moms United compiles crime arrest statistics to show, in no uncertain terms, how the practice of policing for profit decreases public safety.
Rather than investigate and arrest suspects who commit violent crimes such as rape, murder, assault, and robbery, Michigan police and prosecutors focus efforts on consensual, victimless crimes. Why? Because doing so brings much-needed funding to cash-strapped law enforcement agencies.
Maryland, Montana, New Mexico and Washington D.C. have enacted comprehensive forfeiture reforms, by Michigan law enforcement have prevented substantial reforms. More on this issue in a future blog.
Here’s how policing for-profit works. The federal government provides grants to drug task forces to “go get drugs,” but does not give grants to detectives who work to find murderers or rapists. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow cops and prosecutors to forfeit cash, assets, and property of anyone accused of drug or prostitution crimes. They don’t have to obtain a conviction or prove in any way the defendant was committing a crime. Local law enforcers also keep all proceeds, sharing with federal agencies.
By now everyone knows about the over 11,000 long-forgotten rape kits found in an abandoned Detroit building. Police cannot forfeit anything from rapists. Considering the Michigan State Police Crime Lab admits marijuana testing accounts for 40% of its workload, we can safely assert it’s much safer to live in Michigan if you’re a rapist than a medical marijuana registry participant.
The warrants executed in search of forfeiture often violate the civil rights of Michigan families who have no criminal intent and do so in the form of excessive force, sexual harassment and child endangerment. Here's just one example, the Shattuck family in St. Clair County, which is the subject of a civil rights violations lawsuit from the Law Office Of Michael Komorn.
The numbers below are statewide arrest rates and as you can see, they do not change much from year to year. It’s time we take public safety seriously, face the ugly truth about policing for profit and begin to heal relations between communities and police.
Michigan Moms United calls on the Michigan Legislature to substantially reform our civil asset forfeiture laws, eliminate policing for profit and require law enforcers to increase arrest rates for violent crimes.
Michigan Moms United has interviewed hundreds of Michigan families eviscerated by both these unjust laws and the SWAT raids used to ransack their homes and businesses in search of forfeiture.
We work to educate the media and legislature about how the failed drug war decreases public safety and destroys families.
Arrests/Incidents = Arrest Rate
Prostitution 955/1134 = 84%
Drugs 34,250/43,999= 77%
Murder 168/258 = 65%
Assault 10,463/28,031 = 37%
Robbery 2726/13177 = 20%
Rape 1676/10,335 = 16%
Arson 322/2754 = 11%
Prostitution 735/803 = 91%
Drugs 35,427/44,442 = 79%
Murder 223/579/ = 38%
Assault 10,076/27,079 = 37%
Robbery 2645/12,396 = 21%
Rape 1593/9886 = 16%
Arson 301/2556 = 11%
Prostitution 447/487 = 91%
Drugs 35,317/44,144= 80%
Assault 9912/26,303 = 37%
Murder 188/528 = 35%
Robbery 2600/11,358 = 22%
Rape 1653/10,228 = 16%
Arson 286/2830 = 10%
Prostitution 335/409 = 81%
Drugs 32,359/40,831 = 79%
Assault 9458/24,060 = 39%
Murder 170/580 = 29%
Robbery 2261/10,354 = 21%
Rape 1491/9688 = 15%
Arson 277/2529 = 10%
Prostitution 390/414 = 94%
Drugs 32,744/43,062 = 76%
Assault 9056/23,795 = 38%
Murder 163/628 = 25%
Robbery 2078/10340 = 20%
Rape 1479/10,109 = 14%
Arson 267/2256 = 11%
Prostitution 307/373 = 82%
Drugs 35664/45338 = 78%
Murder 258/585 = 44%
Assault 8954/22813 = 39%
Robbery 2223/10201 = 21%
Rape 1508/9780 = 15%
Arson 255/1873 = 13%
Prostitution 388/453 = 85%
Drugs 35,762/44,224 = 80%
MURDER 325/508 = 63%
Assault 9303/22,862 = 27%
Robbery 1867/8171 = 22%
RAPE 1480/9319 = 15%
Arson 238/1621 = 14%
Prostitution 627/741 = 84%
Drugs 36,686/45,645 = 80%
Murder 253/539 = 46%
Assault 9081/22665 = 40%
Robbery 1619/7775 = 20%
Rape 1472/9836 = 14%
Arson 243/1912 = 12%
Announcing a new column in The Midwest Cultivator: Cultivator Cooks
Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share in our trade journal? TMC will be profiling marijuana recipes in our new column, Cultivator Cooks. We'll profile the chef, the recipe and also discuss the medical issues that the medicine is treating. For example, "Every Saturday Bob Green picks up potatoes, onions and peppers at his local farmers market. He says he loves supporting local farmers to make his famous Happy Hippy Hash, including his caregiver, Dorothy, who cultivates and provides him with Burgundy Kush-a specialized strain that treats his Crohns disease."
Ok, so ya'll clearly will have to educate me about strains, diseases, and cooking. But that's why I'm coming here, to you folks. Because you have the knowledge. I just write it down.
This will be a loud and proud column, one that celebrates our new law, new rights as patients and brings cooking with marijuana to the larger population.
Please email myself directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Just tell me a little about the recipe and yourself.
Thanks much. I look forward to working with you.
Charmie, Editor of The Midwest Cultivator