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Lane County (OR) Police Seize ATM in Dispensary Raid

On October 18, 2012, in Drug War, states, by Eapen Thampy

Jack Moran in the Register-Guard reports:

Lane County authorities want to keep $60,637 in cash, a sport utility vehicle and an automated teller machine seized from a medical marijuana club owner whose Eugene dispensary was shut down after a police raid on Aug. 30.

Attorneys for the county last week filed a civil forfeiture complaint in Lane County Circuit Court that alleges the confiscated cash and property were connected to a criminal drug enterprise involving Curtis Shimmin, who was arrested on marijuana and money laundering charges on the night of the raid.

Shimmin ran his medical marijuana “resource center,” Kannabosm, at 401 W. 11th Ave. for more than a year before drug agents took him into custody and emptied his club of pot intended for distribution to state-registered medical marijuana cardholders.

That same night, detectives also seized the ATM from the business, along with cash and Shimmin’s Toyota SUV.

Lane County prosecutors see distinct advantages in processing the seizure of Mr. Shimmin’s cash and property through civil forfeiture. Not only does the civil forfeiture process allow prosecutors greater ease in claiming property where  third-party property interests are implicated (for instance if someone else has full or partial claim to owning the ATM), but it allows the prosecutors to use Mr. Shimmin’s forfeited property to fund the subsequent criminal prosecution (pending the disposition of the civil forfeiture, of course). Mr. Shimmin, of course, claims that his activities were lawful:

During an August 2011 interview with The Register-Guard, Shimmin said he and his attorneys were of the opinion that cash-for-pot transactions that occurred at Kannabosm were not technically sales, and therefore not illegal in Oregon.

Shimmin said much of the money paid by Kannabosm members for access to marijuana worked to reimburse growers for supplies and electricity used to produce the buds. In return, growers return a “small amount” of cash to Kannabosm for “storage and handling,” Shimmin said.

Under state law, patients may give excess marijuana to another cardholder. Shimmin said last year that all of the marijuana available at Kannabosm is excess pot that growers are left with after their patients take what they need. By allowing their growers to pass along marijuana to the club, patients are essentially giving it to other cardholders, Shimmin said.

The Institute for Justice in its 50 state report “Policing for Profit” gave Oregon’s civil forfeiture law a C+ grade, noting:

Today, to secure forfeiture of personal property, the government has to prove, only by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is proceeds or an instrumentality of a crime committed by another person.  If the property is real property, the standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence.

In other words, while Mr. Shimmin’s physical liberty is protected by the Constitutional protections that apply to criminal cases, his right to own property exists on two lower tiers. Shimmin’s right to own real property (land) can be abrogated in a civil case where the government needs only show by “clear and convincing”  the evidence that the property represents the proceeds of a crime or was used in a crime; and Shimmin’s right to his own money and the other fruits of his labor can be abrogated merely by the government’s showing of a “preponderance of the evidence”. In court, to defend his property rights, Mr. Shimmin has to contest whatever evidence the government presents by proving the innocence of his property. Without qualified legal representation, this would be a nightmare, and most property owners who are victimized by forfeiture end up losing by default.

AFR reported on the release of the 2011 asset forfeiture report released by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission:

The CJC report offers a number of eye opening facts about asset forfeiture in Oregon. Civil forfeitures outnumbered criminal forfeitures 2-to-1. The vast bulk of defendants in civil forfeiture cases did not have attorneys. Vehicle consent and probable cause made up 37% of the searches. Over $1.1 million in cash was liquidated at judgment in civil cases, compared to just over $70,000 in property sold. Unsurprisingly, marijuana was the most common drug associated with both civil and criminal forfeiture and currency was the most common item seized.

It’s time to reform Oregon’s civil forfeiture law by abolishing the antiquated and abominable practice of civil forfeiture. Without civil forfeiture, law enforcement agencies will be forced to investigate crimes of merit and file criminal charges instead of using the forfeiture laws to focus on finding seizeable cash and property that can pad agency budgets at the expense of American rights.

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2 Responses to “Lane County (OR) Police Seize ATM in Dispensary Raid”

  1. [...] week, Lane County authorities filed an asset forfeiture complaint against a dispensary they raided in Augu…. They hit Kannabosm on August 30 and arrested the owner, Curtis Shimmin, on marijuana and money [...]

  2. [...] week, Lane County authorities filed an asset forfeiture complaint against a dispensary they raided in Augu…. They hit Kannabosm on August 30 and arrested the owner, Curtis Shimmin, on marijuana and money [...]

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