TCU Students in Drug Bust Have Had a Helluva Time Getting Their Cars Back From Police

tcumugshots.jpg
Most people have more or less forgotten the high-profile TCU drug bust of February 2012. Aside from the presence of four football players among the 18 arrested and the relatively rare chance for TV stations to run a mugshot gallery full of privileged college kids, the revelation that a bunch of young people had been running a small-scale drug ring on campus just wasn't all that shocking.

Kudos to TCU journalism students and the Star-Telegram for sticking with the story. They teamed up on a very solid investigative piece highlighting the rather striking incongruity between the criminal activity and the value of the property seized by police.

To be clear, the TCU students were dealing drugs and all were ultimately convicted. But this wasn't exactly the Sinaloa cartel. The students were peddling marijuana and pills in amounts small enough that none were sent to prison, escaping instead with probation or deferred adjudication.

Fort Worth police nevertheless used their powers under Texas' civil forfeiture laws rather broadly, seizing $46,243 in cash; 15 vehicles worth more than a quarter of a million dollars; nine weapons; and nearly $20,000 worth of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and cellphones. In other words, anything police remotely suspected may have been used to facilitate drug dealing or been purchased with its proceeds.

Some of the vehicles have been returned. One defendant got his Fort F-150 back by paying the Tarrant County narcotics unit $17,500. Another paid $7,500 for his Cadillac Escalade. But that took months of legal wrangling and lots of attorney fees. Most of the students quickly gave up hope of ever seeing their phones and laptops again.

Maybe that's the right outcome. Here's betting Fort Worth police seize this type of property in lower-profile drug cases all the time; why should the college kids be any different?

The potentially concerning thing is how the outcome is arrived at. These are civil seizures, meaning that defendants don't get the due process protections they do in criminal cases and that the burden of proof for law enforcement is much lower. Indeed, prosecutors need not even secure a conviction in order to keep someone's property. It turns the presumption of innocence on its head.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
28 comments
observist
observist topcommenter

What does "TCU" stand for again?

sixandahalf
sixandahalf

...this civil forfeiture mess is just wrong...who got us into this mess and who can get us out?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

The kid third from left, bottom row, should have done hard time for the hair alone.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

The Ft. Worth Police Department has a number of problems, including "leadership".  But, you can also look to people like Wendy Davis who passed such laws in Texas, and didn't step in to help these students. 


For some strange reason, many of our police departments have not only become militaristic, but are also shooting innocent people and coming down hard on college students when they won't do the same with career criminals and illegal aliens. 


I appreciate "The Observer" doing this story.  It will warn more metroplex parents NOT to put their children in TCU - or anywhere else in Ft. Worth.

pak152
pak152

nothing new here , police all around the country have been taking advantage of the civil forfeiture laws.

"Cops Use Traffic Stops To Seize Millions From Drivers Never Charged With A Crime"

http://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2014/03/12/cops-use-traffic-stops-to-seize-millions-from-drivers-never-charged-with-a-crime/

"Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets–all without so much as charging you with a crime."

http://www.forbes.com/2011/06/08/property-civil-forfeiture.html

Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

http://www.ij.org/policing-for-profit-the-abuse-of-civil-asset-forfeiture-4

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Moral of the story, peddle a little bit of dope and get pinched hard.  Topple a banking system by packaging up loans with at best dubious documentation, get a multi-million dollar bonus and vacation in the Bahamas at your private seaside resort.


Geez, when will these idiot college kids get it right.

alanperdue
alanperdue

Drugs should be legal. Stop wasting time and money pursuing arch criminals like the TCU students and get out and catch a real criminal.

veruszetec
veruszetec

I feel that seizure/forfeiture laws should be changed so that the money goes back into the community. As it is, it turns the police into a for-profit agency.

Set up a fund that the police can't touch, maybe something to do with education. Auction the vehicles and send the money there.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

Just out of curiosity, do you know if the civil suits occurred before or after the criminal suits?  Seems the whole presumption of innocence would be irrelevant if the defendant already pled guilty. 


Of course, when you want a nanny state to look over everything and provide utopia this is what you get.   

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Check out Radley Balko on fb or wash post for litany of seizure horror stories.

War on drugs isc war on Bill of Rights.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Yeah, incentivizing the enforcement of malum prohibitum laws by enabling the enforcers to take all the accused folks' shiny bits is the WRONG ANSWER. 


Especially when the gov't does not have to prove guilt and/or connection to the crime.


This, people, is how our law enforcement agencies become merely another gang among gangs.  Gangs that get to tap the taxpayers for more funds and claim sovereign immunity for their actions.

roo_ster
roo_ster

It is called anarchotyranny.

Govt refuses to control the real criminals (the anarchy) and instead tries to control the innocent (the tyranny).

Samuel francis is the man who explained it best.

juanmayeaux
juanmayeaux

@pak152 Exactly and never travel with any significant amount of cash because many police will trump up some kind of reason for forfeiture. Most circulated cash today has some kind of residual amounts of drugs on the paper.  

observist
observist topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul   If you don't want America to coddle the perpetrators of massive, economy-ruining financial fraud, while imprisoning pot smokers, you don't want America to be World Class.

Charlie
Charlie

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Geez, when will these idiot adults(who are supposed to be the, well, adults, in the situation) who have shredded all due process protections in the constitution get it right?

Charlie
Charlie

@veruszetec Some states require the funds to go to the state general fund.  Missouri is one.  North Carolina doesn't allow civil forfeitures at all

Charlie
Charlie

@becoolerifyoudid Chances are there wasn't even a suit filed.  They took the money, said the magic word-drugs-and told the defendants that they were shit out of luck. 

James080
James080

@roo_ster  

They're lazy. They pick the low hanging fruit. 

Government's response to illegal drug use has caused far more damage to the people of this country than their illegal drug use ever did. 

TexasWheels
TexasWheels

@bvckvs  Yep, you are right, those drugs that have horrible side effects like death, heart attack, brain damage..etc. But hey it keeps the cooperations peddling them rich and the politics that they lobby to rich so that the not so bad drugs are kept illegal.  

alanperdue
alanperdue

That may be but people have to steal the prescriptions and that is *not* legal.

Charlie
Charlie

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @roo_sterThey will claim they found "drug residue" on the cash.  Since most circulated cash in this country contains trace amounts of drugs, they pretty much get a positive result whenever they find it convenient

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...