Car Impound Law Goes To Board 

Car Impound Law Goes To Board 
Posted by FoM on September 20, 2000 at 08:35:51 PT
By Rachel Gordon of The Examiner Staff
Source: San Francisco Examiner
A constitutional showdown is sure to erupt if San Francisco enacts a controversial law that would let police seize cars suspected of being used in the solicitation of drugs and prostitutes - even if the owners are never convicted. Backed by cops and residents living in crime-plagued neighborhoods and opposed by civil libertarians concerned about due process, the proposed ordinance cleared a key hurdle at City Hall on Tuesday. The Board of Supervisors Housing and Social Policy Committee, without taking a position on the measure, voted to send the legislation to the full board for consideration next week. 
The measure requires that officers have "clear and convincing evidence" that the driver of the car was buying drugs or soliciting a prostitute before the vehicle can be impounded. Criminal conviction of the driver is not necessary under the legislation drafted by Supervisor Amos Brown. Capt. Kevin Cashman, head of San Francisco Police Department's vice squad, said such a law would be an effective deterrent as has been shown in Oakland, which has adopted a similar law, he said. Now, he said, "pimps, prostitutes, johns and narcotics dealers and users commute to San Francisco to ply their trade rather than lose their vehicles in Oakland." SFPD statistics show that of the 2,471 "Johns" picked up in undercover police operations in The City over the past 13 months, 47 percent lived outside The City. Jane Martin is fed up. She lives near 17th and Shotwell streets in the Mission, an area long saturated with street walkers. The seizure law is needed, she said, "so we can sleep at night, walk across the street, stand in front of our homes to water our plants or walk with our children down the block to school without being approached by sex-seeking men." But the measure's critics say it's the wrong answer. Supervisor Sue Bierman said more police presence and stepped-up prosecution of existing laws is what's needed. She and others also questioned the constitutionality of a seizure law. "I'm not here to question the problems that occur; I'm sure they do occur," said Alan Schlosser, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. But, he said, "this is a punitive measure for criminal offenses for which there is no requirement of conviction." In addition, he said, there's no presumption of innocence. He said that while there are provisions in the legislation to give owners of the confiscated cars a chance to prove their innocence and get their vehicles back, the proposed system for redress would be complicated and potentially costly. Eric Kinney, a Vallejo resident, found that out first hand when his car was seized a year ago by cops in Oakland. Kinney was caught in a sting operation when he allegedly tried to buy two grams of what he thought was marijuana from undercover officers for $20. Police immediately took away his 1989 Ford Ranger, which was worth about $5,000. "This was very traumatic," he said. He spent more than $2,000 to hire a lawyer to fight the seizure, and eventually got his car back. He was never convicted. Martha Upshur, who lives in Hunters Point, wasn't shedding tears. She said the drug trade in her neighborhood, with the accompanying violence and loitering, has forced her to "live in hell." The ACLU has a pending legal challenge against Oakland's 3-year-old car seizure law which has resulted in some 300 vehicles being impounded and sold at auction, with proceeds split between the offices of district attorney and the city attorney. Police also recoup their expenses. The Oakland law has been upheld by the Superior Court and a state appeals court. The ACLU has appealed to the California Supreme Court. Schlosser said San Francisco could expect a challenge if the legislation is adopted. Note: S.F. police could seize vehicles suspected of being used to obtain drugs. Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)Published: September 20, 2000 Author: Rachel Gordon of The Examiner Staff©2000 San Francisco Examiner Contact: letters examiner.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:A.C.L.U. Endangers Americans Rights: S.F. To Consider Seizing Cars of Drug, Sex Clients Court Affirms Oakland Vehicle Forfeiture
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on September 22, 2000 at 04:15:03 PT:
I couldn't resists injecting a little
humor in an essentially humorless - and Constitutionally dangerous - situation, but get this:'Capt. Kevin Cashman, head of San Francisco Police Department's vice squad, said such a law would be an effective deterrent as has been shown in Oakland, whichhas adopted a similar law, he said.' "Cashman", eh? As in cash from forfeiture? Talk about synchronicity, the very *name* of the guy fronting for this is suggestive of how far this has gone. The more I look at the War on Some Drugs, the more I am struck by the absurdity of it all. If Kafka were alive today, he'd be writing about it for sure.
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Comment #3 posted by EdC on September 21, 2000 at 01:46:02 PT
car impound
What a novel concept. Straight out of Monopoli. If the bank owns your car, pay the police the blue book value or go directly to jail.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 20, 2000 at 09:27:38 PT
You're right
Dave in Florida that was good! LOL!PS: I hope your computer is working ok now. I reformatted mine and it is working much better now.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #1 posted by Dave in Florida on September 20, 2000 at 09:17:30 PT
Smart "Johns"
will get out park their cars and walk to check out the prostitutes or drug dealers. What will the cops do then?
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