Under our current regime of drug prohibition in the U.S., it is true that American drug users support the violent drug cartels in Mexico. If we ended the drug wars, and instead legalized and regulated peaceful drug use, and treated addiction under a medical model, the violence associated with the illicit drug trade would mostly go away. When CVS opens a drug store across the street from Walgreens, they don’t get into a gun battle. When a drug store is robbed, they call the police instead of sending out a gang to get revenge. It is the government policy of prohibition that causes the violence associated with the illicit drug trade. Our drug wars will be endless until prohibition is ended.
Thanks to Lee Rood for her expose’ in The Des Moines Register about the financial devastation of an Iowa citizen that was caused by Iowa’s drug tax. As Rood reported, Stephanie Hilgenberg was arrested in 2016 after police found about $5,000 worth of meth in her purse. She was convicted and served time in prison. She is now free and working to support heself and her two kids. But she still owes the Iowa Department of Revenue about $150,000 in tax, penalty and interest! She had failed to pay the “drug stamp tax” required in order to avoid the penalties and interest.
Iowa’s Constitution prohibits excessive fines, but this is technically a tax, not a fine. Again as Rood reported, part of the strategy of the tax was to use as a negotiating lever to get small time dealers to give up their suppliers. In our failed drug wars, the little guy is often sacrificed as a means to what drug warriors consider more important ends.
Drug addiction is a terrible thing. But we will be better served as a society by treating addiction under a medical model rather than a criminal model. Education works better than punishment. One step in the right direction would be to repeal the punitive stamp tax that is added to the injury caused by drug prohibition. State legislatiors should take that up next session.
It may be good for the City of Des Moines to have a policy that, “…requires all city employees to perform their duties without regard to race, ethnicity, gender or other characteristics…”, but that does not replace the need for a anti-racial-profiling policy specifically for the Des Moines Police Department.
For better or for worse, conscious and unconscious bias exist in most human beings. It is in our nature to look for norms, patterns, averages, etc., and to apply what we think we know to our everyday situations. But police officers are rightfully placed in a very special position: we allow them the legal use of force. So, police officers especially need to make sure they treat each person as an individual, presumed innocent, following due process procedures.
In this case, the City of Des Moines should give the Des Moines Police Department clear policy regarding what police officers can and cannot do as it relates of acting on their “feelings” or “hunches” in any given situation. Profiling or pretextual stops based on race should be prohibited. Suggestions by Iowa CCI, the ACLU of Iowa, and the NAACP should be given serious consideration as part of developing the policy.
Link to related articles in The Des Moines Register:
The Des Moines Register recently ran an editorial about how the Iowa State Patrol appears to be targeting out-of-state cars travelling through Iowa to try to find assets to seize using our current civil asset forfeiture laws. (See link below.)
One obvious possible reason why out-of-state cars might be targeted is that it would help keep seized property flowing to law enforcement agencies, while keeping political heat off of this problem. Out-of-state drivers don’t vote in Iowa, and they don’t have an elected Iowa representative to call to complain.
It is clearly unjust that we allow our government to take property from people who are not charged with a crime, and then put the burden of proof on them to prove their innocence in order to get their property back. It is hard to believe that this does not violate both our Iowa and U.S. Constitutional right to due process. Also, in many cases, law enforcement agencies get to keep the property that they confiscate! This clear conflict of interest should not be tolerated.
Last year in the Iowa Legislature, a bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate that would have put a stop to this injustice, but it never got out of committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Steven Sodders of State Center, never acted on the bill, so it died in committee. He is a deputy sheriff in Marshall County. If you would like to see end to civil asset forfeiture in Iowa, contact Senator Sodders and let him know we need and expect his help this year.
Thanks to the Sunday Register (3/29/2015) for its exposé of the abuses occurring in Iowa under civil asset forfeiture laws. (Sunday Register 3/29/2015) Taking people’s money and other property without charging them with a crime violates the principles of due process of law and innocent until proven guilty.
Allowing law enforcement officers and prosecutors to keep the money that they confiscate creates a clear conflict of interest and is a corrupting influence. The examples given in the Register report show law enforcement officers have become more interested in collecting money than stopping crime. We need to stop this corruption and abuse.
SF467 has been introduced in the Iowa Senate. It would allow forfeiture only as part of a criminal charge against the owner, and it would require any forfeited property to be turned over the general fund of the county or state. If passed, this law would go a long way toward curbing these abuses. Contact your Iowa Senator and urge them to move this bill forward to passage.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2015/03/28/iowa-forfeiture-system-legal-thievery/70600856/
I was disappointed to learn that, according to the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, 67% of Iowa adults think is is best to continue to criminalize the personal use of marijuana. People continue to be imprisoned, fined, and given permanent criminal records because they engaged in a voluntary peaceful activity. Whether or not to legalize the recreational use of marijuana is not the correct question. The correct question is whether or not to continue to make criminals out of adults who have done no harm to anyone else. Many people have been greatly harmed because of our unjust marijuana prohibition laws. We now have a situation where the remedy is worse than the disease. The situation clearly conflicts with our state motto: Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.
Thanks to The Des Moines Register for exposing the unconstitutional and abusive use of civil asset forfeiture laws against U.S. citizens by the Iowa State Patrol, county attorneys, and the Iowa Attorney General. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to take people’s cash (and other property) without charging them with a crime! Then, citizens must prove they are innocent in order to get their money back.
Most amazing is the fact that the three law enforcement agencies that are involved get to split the money! Whatever they can keep becomes a slush fund they can use to expand their budgets without legislative approval. The conflict of interest is clear. As a result, rather than arresting people and charging them with a crimes, our law enforcement officials make getting cash and other assets an end unto itself.
This is another example of how the failed drug wars have gotten out of control. Our police have become militarized trying to fight the drug wars. People who have never been violent or used any force against anyone have been made into criminals. Then, because of their “criminal record”, they can’t get jobs and are prohibited from participating in benefits of our society.
We need to put a complete halt to civil asset forfeiture and we need to stop making criminals out of people who do no harm to others. Ask candidates if they will help put an end to this travesty of justice.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/09/30/iowa-state-patrol-cash-seizure-illegal-gamblers-say/16511135/
One of the few proper roles of our government is to operate a civil and criminal justice system. In a civil society, crimes must be adjudicated impartially and disputes must be resolved peacefully. In Polk County, over the past decades, we have cobbled together the building space used to support our court system. The current space is crowded, unsafe, and inefficient. Detainees, judges, jurors, and the public cannot be properly segregated to ensure proper safety for all.
Five years ago, Polk County voters rejected as too expensive the then proposed $127 million bond referendum that included the construction of a new court building. Now, the County and other interested parties have brought forth a significantly less expensive proposal that achieves the same goals.
On November 5th, Polk County voters are being asked to approve an $81 million bond issue that, if approved, will add $12 – $13 per year to the property tax on a $100,000 house. The money will be used to renovate our existing historical Courthouse, convert the JC Penny/Wellmark building immediately North of the Courthouse into a “Justice Center Annex”, and convert the Old Main Jail immediately East of the Courthouse into a “Criminal Court Annex.” These changes will provide for a much safer and more efficient court system.
Those promoting this project have have responded thoughtfully to the objections made by voters five years ago, and have made sensible changes to reduce costs while achieving important goals. Polk County voters should vote YES on this “Public Measure A” on November 5th.
Marijuana is now legal for recreational purposes in both Colorado and Washington. It will be regulated like liquor. This is a great step toward liberty and freedom. Marijuana is mostly like alcohol, but its use is unjustly discriminated against by government.
What if police burst into your house and found a six pack of beer – and arrested you – and made you attend rehab classes – and your “criminal record” made it much more difficult for you to get a job? Why is marijuana so different from alcohol? The voters of two states said it is not that different.
It is a proper role of government to create and enforce regulations to reasonably protect the general safety of citizens. Driving while intoxicated, whether by alcohol or marijuana, should be a crime. But if an activity does no harm to others, it is not a proper role of government to prohibit that activity.
The new state laws will likely be tested in the Supreme Court. I hope the Supreme Court finds it is not a proper role for the federal government to regulate the recreational use of marijuana. Alcohol and tobacco are mostly regulated by the States. Marijuana should be no different.
He whose name should never be spoken, the coward who killed 12 and maimed many more in Aurora, Colorado, should get his right to a speedy trial. We are fortunate that Colorado still had the death penalty. Regardless of the cost associated with the death penalty, it is appropriate for this killer. It is clear that he is insane, but that should be no defense in this case. No sane person would do what he did. There is no doubt that he committed premeditated murder of innocent people. The best thing he could do is plead guilty. Then, let’s hope that he is put to death quickly.