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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Petition: Stop WI Police from Stealing Bail Money


Target: The Brown County Drug Task-force
Goal: To stop the Brown County Police Department from robbing people who are trying to provide bail money.

Brown County, located in eastern Wisconsin, is currently experiencing a serious problem with its police department’s handling of bail money. In numerous cases where citizens are arrested in Brown County, particularly when the arrests are for drug offenses, the police have been seizing the bail money using their asset forfeiture policy.

“Asset forfeiture” laws allow for the seizure of property obtained through money gained in an illegal manner; once seized, this property is liquidated and a portion of the profits are given to the police department. The tactic of asset forfeiture is intended to punish drug dealers and to assist in funding the police departments which arrest drug dealers.
Many civil rights groups have claimed that asset forfeiture laws give the police a financial incentive to arrest more non-violent offenders and that these laws disproportionately affect the poor. Asset forfeiture disproportionately harms the poor because, as no lawyer is provided by the state to fight asset forfeitures, many poor people are simply unable to fight back, regardless of their guilt.

The Brown County Police Department has taken the concept of asset forfeiture to an entirely new level: When friends and family members of those arrested call in to the police to arrange bail, they are told (incorrectly, as a check is acceptable) that they must bring cash to the police station. Once the bail money is delivered to the police, they use drug sniffer dogs do determine whether the money has drug residue on it and, if it does, they seize the cash for themselves. Even in cases where the bail money has a paper trail directly from a bank, thus is obviously not from a drug deal, the money has still been seized under asset forfeiture.

Various studies, run by the federal government, have shown that between 75% and 90% of all currency currently circulating in the United States has enough drug residue to trigger a positive drug test. As drug residue is so commonly found on bills, this disqualifies it as proof of any wrongdoing in court and makes the seizure of money by the police wholly inappropriate; if the police officers were to empty their pockets, statistics would indicate that a majority of their money would be covered with drug residue as well.

A combination of the request for bail to be in cash and the systemic testing of said cash, even though the result is inevitably positive, proves intent on the part of the police to seize bail money.

Given the preponderance of the evidence against such use of seizure laws, the actions of the Brown County police department are little better than legitimized theft. Our police departments should protect our citizens from being victimized by those who wish to take our property, not join in on the victimization of citizens using the authority of their badges. Please sign this petition to protest the specious use of asset forfeiture laws to rob American citizens when they are simply trying to provide bail money to their loved ones.


Dear Brown County Drug Task-force,

It has recently come to the attention of the public that your department is utilizing asset forfeiture laws to seize bail money, even in cases where this money obviously is not obtained from drug sales. While asset forfeiture laws are on the books in Wisconsin, this is never how they were intended to operate and utilizing them like this is little better than theft.

A vast majority of money in circulation has drug residue on it, including the dollar bills in your own pockets, thus the use of such residue to justify asset seizure is wholly unfair.

Please, remember why you became police officers – to protect and serve – and stop this victimization of the families of those who you arrest. Even if those who you arrest are guilty of a crime, it does not justify your department defrauding those who come in to post bail.

I, as well as everybody else who has signed this petition, implore you to immediately stop the policy of testing and seizing bail money from those who post bail within your jurisdiction.

[Your Name Here]

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