Police officers in Alabama have found a way to make a quick buck while they’re supposed to be upholding the law and protecting citizens. They’ve begun seizing the assets of individuals that they take into custody, even if these people are never charged with a crime. Mike Papantonio and Peter Mougey discuss this.


Mike Papantonio: Police officers in Alabama, they found a way to make a quick buck while they’re supposed to be upholding the law and protecting citizens.

They’ve begun seizing assets of individuals that they take into custody, even if those people aren’t charged with a crime. It doesn’t make any difference if there’s a conviction. They say, “We caught you! There’s no conviction, but we’re going to keep your property anyway.” Wow! What’s your take?

Peter Mougey: It’s absolutely crazy. The thought behind this, according to the Alabama, the police departments, are, “We need to motivate our policemen to go arrest people by saying, when you arrest them” … keep in mind arresting isn’t convicting. It’s just arresting them, civil asset forfeiture. And then, “We’re either gonna throw it in the State coffers or keep it in our local budget.”

But here’s the part that is just scary to me. Morris Dees at the Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a study. And he’s a … he’s a champion for the unrepresented.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Morris, by the way, wrote the forward to my first book-

Peter Mougey: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: … I ever wrote, called In Search of Atticus Finch.

Peter Mougey: Dedicated his entire career to representing people without a voice.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Peter Mougey: Their study, 25 percent of cases of civil asset forfeiture never resulted in even charges. Not convictions, but charges were never filed.

So we’re gonna take their money-

Mike Papantonio: In other words, there’s probable cause in their mind.

Peter Mougey: Oh, my.

Mike Papantonio: We’re gonna … there are no arrest.

Peter Mougey: Right.

Mike Papantonio: We’re gonna take … well, there’s arrest, there’s an arrest. But there are no charges-

Peter Mougey: Charges being filed.

Mike Papantonio: … after the arrest. They make the arrest and they say, “Ah, boy, we really screwed the pooch here. We don’t even have enough to charge them with.”

Peter Mougey: 25 percent of the time.

Mike Papantonio: And they’re taking the money, confiscating the money, confiscating the car, confiscating the boat, seizing it. And 25 percent of the time-

Peter Mougey: Well, you know-

Mike Papantonio: … the charges aren’t even brought.

Peter Mougey: … this story’s Alabama. This goes on all over the country, man.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Peter Mougey: This isn’t just Alabama. This goes on everywhere. But here-

Mike Papantonio: I think we have a business model.

Peter Mougey: Yeah. Well, he-

Mike Papantonio: I mean, it-

Peter Mougey: The business model is that they’re giving incentive for these police officers to take … Now, here’s what’s interesting. If the police officers or the agency learns that the money’s going to the Federal Government, that it doesn’t come back to them and they don’t … you know, they love these boats that they get-

Mike Papantonio: Right.

Peter Mougey: … and cars and helicopters, all this stuff that they’re able to seize. This is why they build their swat armies, you know where they dress up like ninja soldiers and walk around with AK-47s. They get a lot of this stuff from these kinds of seizures. That’s what’s-

Mike Papantonio: $2 million from the practice.

Peter Mougey: Yeah, okay. Okay. So then-

Mike Papantonio: $2 million they made annually.

Peter Mougey: Yeah, say again?

Mike Papantonio: Annually, $2 million.

Peter Mougey: Annually, okay. I think it’s probably more than that in most places. But look, here isn’t this … isn’t this the real issue? You’re giving them an incentive so they can get this stuff. All right?

But if we really think about it, the public policy is that police are servants. And they take an oath of integrity. They take an oath to uphold the law.

They don’t take an oath to say, “Hey, I’m gonna get filthy rich by taking your stuff.”

Mike Papantonio: Right, I’m gonna fund my agency-

Peter Mougey: I’m going fund-

Mike Papantonio: … if I take your car or your boat when I arrest you, and forfeit your assets-

Peter Mougey: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: … without any burden of proof. That just undermines our whole system.

Peter Mougey: So you got Boss Hog driving around in the Porsches with the … with sirens on top.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.