More Asset Forfeiture

It seems El Cajon, CA has jumped on the bandwagon, and is now seizing vehicles from men arrested for picking up prostitutes. Read on:

El Cajon begins seizing vehicles for solicitation of prostitution

When it comes to prostitution, El Cajon means business.

A new law empowers the city to assume ownership of vehicles police seize from men soliciting prostitutes, and officers tested it for the first time Tuesday night.

“The welcome mat has been withdrawn in El Cajon,” Mayor Mark Lewis said. “Before, all they had to do was pay a fine and they’d get released. Now, they have to explain what happened to the family station wagon.”

Really? What if the car is borrowed? Continuing:

City officials countywide are watching the development in El Cajon and could follow suit should the law prove effective in a city where prostitution-related arrests nearly tripled last year from 2002.

Police departments in the region routinely impound cars used in crimes, but only a few are allowed to assume ownership of the vehicles.

That’s sure to change.

On Tuesday night, police staked out a busy corner on Main Street east of downtown as three female officers posing as prostitutes and wired for sound lured a seemingly endless stream of potential customers.

One man, who did not agree to buy sex, told the undercover officer he’d heard of the new law, apparently had second thoughts and drove off before making a deal, police said.

Officers cited 12 people and seized 12 vehicles during the Tuesday night sting, Sgt. Steve Shakowski said.

Those cited – solicitation of prostitution is a misdemeanor – were shocked to learn about the new consequences.

“I think it’s a little overboard,” said one of the accused, lugging a bag of thinset mortar for tile and a sack of hardware that police allowed him to retrieve from the bed of his $20,000 pickup just before it was towed to an impound yard.

Police estimated the value of the vehicles seized at $91,000.

Hey, one night, twelve vehicles, $91,000 blue-book value. The city can probably sell them for 50% of the value to brokers, and they clear an easy $45k.

So the hard part will be finding a balance where they reduce prostitution without severely affecting this new revenue stream.

How, exactly, does this differ from making “solicitation of prostitution” a misdemeanor punishable by a $20k fine? And would you not consider this an excessive amount?

“We’ve had some discussions of a similar ordinance,” said San Diego police Sgt. Mark Sullivan, a member of the countywide Prostitution Task Force.

Oceanside police also are considering taking ownership of cars of persons arrested for soliciting prostitution. Capt. David Heering said yesterday that an Oceanside police proposal is sitting on the city attorney’s desk waiting for clearance.

El Cajon’s law differs from others in the state in that the accused can request a hearing before a judge to determine whether the vehicle was confiscated legally. The owners – whether they were the person arrested for the crime, or not – have two days to request an administrative hearing, the results of which may be appealed to the Superior Court and beyond.

The added oversight is intended to prevent misuse of the law and to minimize the number of cases that end up in court, City Attorney Morgan Folley said.

Of course. Can’t have the proles clogging the courts. And check out that time period! Two whole days! Gee, how generous.

The ACLU unsuccessfully challenged Oakland’s version of the law in 1998. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld a similar law in Michigan.

The majority opinion, cited “a long and unbroken line of cases” since 1827 holding that “an owner’s interest in property may be forfeited” even though the owner did not know it would be put to illegal use.

Oh, right. Let’s just stretch the precedents as far as they can possibly go. It’s for a good cause. It’ll never be abused. We’re from the government and we’re here to help you!

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