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Browsing the archives for the Eminent Domain category.

Policing for Profit? Lawmakers, advocates raise alarm at growing gov’t power to seize property

Eminent Domain, Federal gov & land grabs

Motel owner Russell Caswell wasn’t expecting to find himself at the center of a national controversy when FBI agents came knocking on his door.

They said they wanted his Tewksbury, Mass., business – and the land it was on – because they suspected it was a hotbed for drug-dealing and prostitution. The agents, who were working with state and local authorities, told a disbelieving Caswell they had the right to take the property, valued at as much as $1.5 million, through a legal process known as civil forfeiture.

Caswell, 70, fought back, and the case turned into one of the nation’s most contentious civil forfeiture fights ever – and one that legal experts say sheds light on a little-known practice that, when abused, is tantamount to policing for profit.

Civil forfeiture is when police and prosecutors seize property, cars or cash from someone they suspect of wrongdoing. It differs from criminal forfeiture cases, where prosecutors typically must prove a person is guilty or reach a settlement before freezing funds or selling property. In civil forfeiture, authorities don’t have to prove guilt, file charges or obtain a conviction before seizing private property. Critics say it is a process ripe for abuse, and one which leaves citizens little means of fighting back.

“You breed a culture of ‘take first, ask questions later,’” Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told FoxNews.com. “It’s thuggish behavior.”

Law enforcement officials argue that civil forfeiture powers give them an effective tool against lawbreakers. Freezing funds and seizing assets allow them to hit alleged criminals, frequently suspected drug dealers, where it hurts the most – their wallets.

Alarmed civil rights groups and libertarians are rallying against the practice. Salzman’s group defended Caswell and won case in federal court last year. 

But not every target of civil forfeiture can afford the fight.

In 1985, the U.S. Department of Justice created its Asset Forfeiture Fund. One year later, the fund — which holds the proceeds from seized property and is available to be divvied out to law enforcement agencies — brought in $93.7 million. In 2008, the amount had ballooned to $1.6 billion. In 2013, it reached $6.3 billion.

Across the country, many states are stepping up efforts to curb civil forfeiture abuse.

In Tennessee, local law enforcement agencies get to keep 100 percent of all property seized through civil forfeiture – an incentive some say can tempt police to go after property for the wrong reasons. Rep. Barrett Rich, a former state trooper, introduced legislation last year that would eliminate the practice in the Volunteer State.

The original version of Rich’s bill would have required authorities to obtain a warrant before seizing property. Forfeiture and title transfer of property would take place only under due process of law and only if the owner of the property had been prosecuted and convicted. Rich’s bill underwent amendments that, in the end, amounted to more modest reforms to state law.

“We shouldn’t completely get rid of civil forfeiture,” Rich told FoxNews.com. “It’s a valuable tool for law enforcement, but it is also ripe for abuse.”

In other states, the fight for reform has been even harder.

In March, the Georgia Sheriff’s Association successfully killed a bill that would have raised the burden of proof in civil cases and mandated the forfeiture of property worth more than $5,000 be brought before a judge rather than handled administratively.

GSA president and Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills argued the bill would “demoralize the law enforcement community to a point where we will see little public benefit in enforcing the law when it comes to drug dealers and other criminal entrepreneurs.”

His letter drew harsh criticism from many watchdog groups.

“It is hard to believe that a Georgia law enforcement official would argue that upholding the law is worthwhile only when it is profitable,” Heritage Foundation bloggers Jason Snead and Andrew Kloster wrote. “Such are the perverse incentives created by civil forfeiture laws.”

An investigation conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked into how funds over a five-year period were spent in Georgia.

According to the newspaper, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard spent thousands of dollars gleaned from civil forfeitures on pricey dinners and an elaborate home security system for himself. In November 2009, he allegedly paid $800 to rent out a movie theater. Three months later, Howard told his employees they’d have to take 10 furlough days due to budget constraints.

To many, like attorney Salzman, civil forfeitures represent a dangerous area of the U.S. justice system where, by law, a person is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.

On a national level, Salzman says a loophole in the federal law called equitable sharing allows authorities to circumvent the paper-thin protections offered on a state level.

In Ball Harbour, Fla., police raked in more than $5 million through its participation with the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture sharing program in 2011.  The town, which is home to only 2,500 permanent residents, made most of its money through the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing program.

Under the federal program, state and local agencies work in tandem with the feds and often they are allowed to keep most of what they help seize. Property is often sold, with proceeds funneled back into local coffers. They money can go toward anything from new equipment to raises and other perks from the same officials who carried out the bust.

It’s the lopsided power of the law that many Americans who are targeted can’t afford to fight, Salzman says.

Salzman, who took on the Caswell case pro bono, said law enforcement officials targeted his client’s property out of greed.

The basic accusation they used to seize his motel was that Caswell could have done more to police what was happening in his own motel. That was news to Caswell, who says over the years he had comp’d the cops free rooms and space so they could set up stings and bust drug deals going down.

“I’ve found, which is kind of hard to believe, but I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Caswell said in court.  “And I have to rent them a room unless I have a real good reason not to or I get accused of discrimination and that kind of thing.”

“And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense,” he added. “It’s more like we’re in Russia or Venezuela or something.”

After a four-day trial, on Jan. 24, 2013, a federal judge in Boston dismissed the forfeiture action against the motel, ruling that the government engaged in “gross exaggeration” of the evidence and did not have authority to seize the property.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/05/09/policing-for-profit-lawmakers-advocates-raise-alarm-at-growing-govt-power-to/?intcmp=latestnews

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Eminent Domain: Gov’t Forces Colorado Couple Off Their Land Which Included an Old Boarded-Up Gold Mine

Eminent Domain, Federal gov & land grabs

The Organic Prepper.ca

 By Daisy Luther

April 26, 2014

 

 

 

Imagine this:

You do your research and you choose a retreat property far off the beaten path.  You spend time and money developing it, making it your own.  Maybe it is a vacation home, or maybe you’re a prepper and this is your bug-out location. Regardless of the reason you chose it, it’s yours, so maybe you plant some perennial vegetables and some fruit trees.  You dig a well or locate a spring.   You make it your own.

Then the government comes along and says, “Nope, we want this land – you’re out.”

And they just take it, evicting you like they are the landlord and you are merely a tenant, despite your name on the deed.

That’s exactly what happened to a couple in Colorado. Andy and Ceil Barrie fought the government and the government won.

The Barries had purchased and idyllic 10 acre parcel of land in the midst of the White River National Forest. The private land had on it a rustic cabin, an outhouse, and an old boarded-up gold mine. It was a day use cabin, and therefore totally off the grid. No electricity, no plumbing – just peace and solitude, accessible only by an ATV via a road that Summit County didn’t even know existed. The cabin is 1.2 miles off the main road. From a preparedness standpoint, the place is what most of us dream of – a sweet little piece of paradise far off the beaten path, without a powerline in sight.

The government used many different bizarre strategies to get the Barries off of their land.  Pay close attention, because precedents are being set that could affect hunters or those creating bug-out retreats.

#1 ATV access threatened an endangered species

The government’s first line of attack against the Barries was forbidding them to use a motorized vehicle to reach the property.  This will sound familiar to anyone who has been following the Cliven Bundy case in Nevada: Summit “county officials issued a report that stated “public motorized access” to the property threatened the alpine tundra and the habitat for the lynx, an endangered species.” (source)  County officials took a vote in October of 2013, and in order to save the lynx threatened by the Barries’ occasional access, agreed that their property should be seized. (In the case of the Bundy ranch, his cattle were massacred by the government while they claimed to be concerned about the fate of the desert tortoise.)

#2 The county demanded that “various commercial activities” be halted

And exactly what nefarious money-making schemes were the Barries up to?  Why, Andy Barry had the audacity to gather up fallen pine cones and take them home for his Christmas wreath making business. He used a cart attached to the afore-mentioned ATV to take them back to his home, where the wreaths were created.

#3 The county condemned the cabin because of electrical and plumbing issues

Umm…it’s an off-grid cabin, so there was no electricity and no plumbing to start with.  In their haste to protect the environment, one would think that bringing in electricity or plumbing would be far more of an issue than a low-carbon-footprint place that used no public utilities.This was strictly a day-use cabin, thus requiring no plumbing or power. How many off-grid homes that adjoin national land exist across the country right now? How many hunting and trapping cabins are snugly sitting out there in the wilderness? Are all of those properties next on the government’s list of properties to steal?

#4 The cabin was in violation of zoning laws

A previous owner had expanded the cabin without a permit.  Because we have to ask the government’s permission for everything, you see.

In the end, the government won.

On Thursday, the Barries had no option but to cede the land.  They did not have the money to fight against the bottomless coffers of the government. They were paid $115,000 for the land.  The couple had spent $75,000 waging a legal defense.  Ceil Barrie said in a statement:

“The cabin was condemned on the grounds of plumbing and electricity, when it doesn’t even have plumbing or electricity. All those things added up in my mind. This is ridiculous, we can never win and our money is not unlimited. I have two kids in college this year. To me, what just came out of it is, you can’t fight the government.” (source)

The moral to this story is, the government does not support the lifestyle to which many of us aspire. Self sufficiency and freedom from the grid are not celebrated, but demonized.  The government, through various agencies masquerading as do-gooders, have waged war on woodstoves, off-grid lifestyles, front yard vegetable gardens, and anything that might allow you to live without their daily input or without being subject to their many taxes and fees.

Private property rights are ignored and according to the government, we must all submit to their “eminent domain”.  What it boils down to: You might think you own something, but it’s clear that it is only yours until the government decides that they want it.

– See more at:

http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/eminent-domain-colorado-couple-finds-out-that-their-land-is-only-their-own-until-the-government-wants-it-04262014#sthash.BjU9aOg2.dpuf

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

Posted by: Daisy Luther | on April 26, 2014

colorado-cabin-eminent-domain-665x385

Imagine this:

You do your research and you choose a retreat property far off the beaten path.  You spend time and money developing it, making it your own.  Maybe it is a vacation home, or maybe you’re a prepper and this is your bug-out location. Regardless of the reason you chose it, it’s yours, so maybe you plant some perennial vegetables and some fruit trees.  You dig a well or locate a spring.   You make it your own.

Then the government comes along and says, “Nope, we want this land – you’re out.”

And they just take it, evicting you like they are the landlord and you are merely a tenant, despite your name on the deed.

That’s exactly what happened to a couple in Colorado. Andy and Ceil Barrie fought the government and the government won.

The Barries had purchased and idyllic 10 acre parcel of land in the midst of the White River National Forest. The private land had on it a rustic cabin, an outhouse, and an old boarded-up gold mine. It was a day use cabin, and therefore totally off the grid. No electricity, no plumbing – just peace and solitude, accessible only by an ATV via a road that Summit County didn’t even know existed. The cabin is 1.2 miles off the main road. From a preparedness standpoint, the place is what most of us dream of – a sweet little piece of paradise far off the beaten path, without a powerline in sight.

The government used many different bizarre strategies to get the Barries off of their land.  Pay close attention, because precedents are being set that could affect hunters or those creating bug-out retreats.

#1 ATV access threatened an endangered species

The government’s first line of attack against the Barries was forbidding them to use a motorized vehicle to reach the property.  This will sound familiar to anyone who has been following the Cliven Bundy case in Nevada: Summit “county officials issued a report that stated “public motorized access” to the property threatened the alpine tundra and the habitat for the lynx, an endangered species.” (source)  County officials took a vote in October of 2013, and in order to save the lynx threatened by the Barries’ occasional access, agreed that their property should be seized. (In the case of the Bundy ranch, his cattle were massacred by the government while they claimed to be concerned about the fate of the desert tortoise.)

#2 The county demanded that “various commercial activities” be halted

And exactly what nefarious money-making schemes were the Barries up to?  Why, Andy Barry had the audacity to gather up fallen pine cones and take them home for his Christmas wreath making business. He used a cart attached to the afore-mentioned ATV to take them back to his home, where the wreaths were created.

#3 The county condemned the cabin because of electrical and plumbing issues

Umm…it’s an off-grid cabin, so there was no electricity and no plumbing to start with.  In their haste to protect the environment, one would think that bringing in electricity or plumbing would be far more of an issue than a low-carbon-footprint place that used no public utilities.This was strictly a day-use cabin, thus requiring no plumbing or power. How many off-grid homes that adjoin national land exist across the country right now? How many hunting and trapping cabins are snugly sitting out there in the wilderness? Are all of those properties next on the government’s list of properties to steal?

#4 The cabin was in violation of zoning laws

A previous owner had expanded the cabin without a permit.  Because we have to ask the government’s permission for everything, you see.

In the end, the government won.

On Thursday, the Barries had no option but to cede the land.  They did not have the money to fight against the bottomless coffers of the government. They were paid $115,000 for the land.  The couple had spent $75,000 waging a legal defense.  Ceil Barrie said in a statement:

“The cabin was condemned on the grounds of plumbing and electricity, when it doesn’t even have plumbing or electricity. All those things added up in my mind. This is ridiculous, we can never win and our money is not unlimited. I have two kids in college this year. To me, what just came out of it is, you can’t fight the government.” (source)

The moral to this story is, the government does not support the lifestyle to which many of us aspire. Self sufficiency and freedom from the grid are not celebrated, but demonized.  The government, through various agencies masquerading as do-gooders, have waged war on woodstoves, off-grid lifestyles, front yard vegetable gardens, and anything that might allow you to live without their daily input or without being subject to their many taxes and fees.

Private property rights are ignored and according to the government, we must all submit to their “eminent domain”.  What it boils down to: You might think you own something, but it’s clear that it is only yours until the government decides that they want it.

– See more at: http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/eminent-domain-colorado-couple-finds-out-that-their-land-is-only-their-own-until-the-government-wants-it-04262014#sthash.BjU9aOg2.dpuf

colorado-cabin-eminent-domain-665x385

Imagine this:

You do your research and you choose a retreat property far off the beaten path.  You spend time and money developing it, making it your own.  Maybe it is a vacation home, or maybe you’re a prepper and this is your bug-out location. Regardless of the reason you chose it, it’s yours, so maybe you plant some perennial vegetables and some fruit trees.  You dig a well or locate a spring.   You make it your own.

Then the government comes along and says, “Nope, we want this land – you’re out.”

And they just take it, evicting you like they are the landlord and you are merely a tenant, despite your name on the deed.

That’s exactly what happened to a couple in Colorado. Andy and Ceil Barrie fought the government and the government won.

The Barries had purchased and idyllic 10 acre parcel of land in the midst of the White River National Forest. The private land had on it a rustic cabin, an outhouse, and an old boarded-up gold mine. It was a day use cabin, and therefore totally off the grid. No electricity, no plumbing – just peace and solitude, accessible only by an ATV via a road that Summit County didn’t even know existed. The cabin is 1.2 miles off the main road. From a preparedness standpoint, the place is what most of us dream of – a sweet little piece of paradise far off the beaten path, without a powerline in sight.

The government used many different bizarre strategies to get the Barries off of their land.  Pay close attention, because precedents are being set that could affect hunters or those creating bug-out retreats.

#1 ATV access threatened an endangered species

The government’s first line of attack against the Barries was forbidding them to use a motorized vehicle to reach the property.  This will sound familiar to anyone who has been following the Cliven Bundy case in Nevada: Summit “county officials issued a report that stated “public motorized access” to the property threatened the alpine tundra and the habitat for the lynx, an endangered species.” (source)  County officials took a vote in October of 2013, and in order to save the lynx threatened by the Barries’ occasional access, agreed that their property should be seized. (In the case of the Bundy ranch, his cattle were massacred by the government while they claimed to be concerned about the fate of the desert tortoise.)

#2 The county demanded that “various commercial activities” be halted

And exactly what nefarious money-making schemes were the Barries up to?  Why, Andy Barry had the audacity to gather up fallen pine cones and take them home for his Christmas wreath making business. He used a cart attached to the afore-mentioned ATV to take them back to his home, where the wreaths were created.

#3 The county condemned the cabin because of electrical and plumbing issues

Umm…it’s an off-grid cabin, so there was no electricity and no plumbing to start with.  In their haste to protect the environment, one would think that bringing in electricity or plumbing would be far more of an issue than a low-carbon-footprint place that used no public utilities.This was strictly a day-use cabin, thus requiring no plumbing or power. How many off-grid homes that adjoin national land exist across the country right now? How many hunting and trapping cabins are snugly sitting out there in the wilderness? Are all of those properties next on the government’s list of properties to steal?

#4 The cabin was in violation of zoning laws

A previous owner had expanded the cabin without a permit.  Because we have to ask the government’s permission for everything, you see.

In the end, the government won.

On Thursday, the Barries had no option but to cede the land.  They did not have the money to fight against the bottomless coffers of the government. They were paid $115,000 for the land.  The couple had spent $75,000 waging a legal defense.  Ceil Barrie said in a statement:

“The cabin was condemned on the grounds of plumbing and electricity, when it doesn’t even have plumbing or electricity. All those things added up in my mind. This is ridiculous, we can never win and our money is not unlimited. I have two kids in college this year. To me, what just came out of it is, you can’t fight the government.” (source)

The moral to this story is, the government does not support the lifestyle to which many of us aspire. Self sufficiency and freedom from the grid are not celebrated, but demonized.  The government, through various agencies masquerading as do-gooders, have waged war on woodstoves, off-grid lifestyles, front yard vegetable gardens, and anything that might allow you to live without their daily input or without being subject to their many taxes and fees.

Private property rights are ignored and according to the government, we must all submit to their “eminent domain”.  What it boils down to: You might think you own something, but it’s clear that it is only yours until the government decides that they want it.

– See more at: http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/eminent-domain-colorado-couple-finds-out-that-their-land-is-only-their-own-until-the-government-wants-it-04262014#sthash.BjU9aOg2.dpuf

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‘This is our heaven’: Colorado couple fights to save land from eminent domain

Eminent Domain, Federal gov & land grabs, Forestry & USFS

“They’re spending us to death,” said landowner Andy Barrie.

He is not talking about property taxes, inflation or even the cost of skiing in glitzy ski country. Rather, he’s talking about the legal fight he and his wife have been waging to save their pristine piece of mountain property — with breathtaking views of Colorado’s high country — from being taken over by the county through eminent domain.

Their battle is a unique test of private property rights. Unlike in countless other cases, where local governments have used those powers to seize land to make way for a road or some economic development project, Colorado’s Summit County is using eminent domain to go after the Barries’ land simply because officials want the open space.

It’s a peaceful plot of land the Barries don’t want to part with.

“Everyone has their special place where they really like to go, and when we came up here the first time we said this is our heaven, this is a special place,” Andy Barrie explained.

Two years ago, Andy and Ceil Barrie bought two pieces of land: a house in an established subdivision, and another piece of property at a higher elevation, accessible by an old mining road.

The isolated parcel is surrounded by 2.2 million acres of White River National Forest, and is essentially an island of private property. It includes an old mining cabin, an outhouse and a shuttered gold mine. The area is popular with hikers.

The couple’s trouble started when the U.S. Forest Service took them to task for using a utility vehicle to drive from their main residence to their cabin. They say they never went off-road, and petitioned for the path to be declared a county road.

The county, though, responded by trying to buy the Barries’ higher-elevation property in order to protect and preserve it as open space. The Barries, who never had any plans to develop it, did not want to sell.

That’s when the county pulled their trump card.

Unbeknownst to the Barries, the previous owner had remodeled the cabin without permits. So Summit County commissioners voted to condemn the property for wiring and plumbing (even though the cabin has none) and filed for eminent domain.

“I understand that we are all trying to save these beautiful mountains and make them accessible to everyone, but you know that property has been sitting there since President Garfield signed our land patent, and we’re not doing anything bad there,” Ceil Barrie said.

Last week, the two sides participated in required, formal mediation with a judge. Summit County, which refused interview requests, released a statement saying: “Both parties engaged in productive negotiations in pursuit of a voluntary settlement regarding the purchase. … We are optimistic that a resolution will be reached within a matter of weeks, if not days.”

The Barries’ hopes are dimming. Asked if recent mediation pointed to a way for the Barries to keep the land in the family name and avoid eminent domain, Andy Barrie responded flatly, “No, they’re taking it.”

Further, they’re concerned that should Summit County seize control of their 10-acre tract, the county will simply trade the property with the U.S. Forest Service for valuable land closer to town.

“They collude together to basically screw up their citizens. … Sooner or later, we’re going to run out of money, but we wanted to fight the good fight and let people know our story and what their government is up to,” Andy Barrie said.

Fox News checked with the White River National Forest division of the U.S. Forest Service about the Barries’ case. Spokesman Bill Kight said via email: “In the case of  this or any on-going legal matter (including eminent domain petitions) with any federal, state, county or local government the Forest Service will not be issuing any statement during such legal proceedings.”

The Barries have spent more than $75,000 to date. The mediation judge recently advised them the financial figure could double in the coming months.

“I even promised my daughter she could get married up here, and now all that’s gone,” Andy Barrie said.

Alicia Acuna joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1997 and currently serves as a general assignment reporter based in the network’s Denver bureau.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/08/colorado-couple-fights-unusual-eminent-domain-bid-to-seize-land/

 

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