June 4, 2010 4:21PM

Prosecutors and the Forfeiture Laws

Child pornography is against the law. You can go to jail if you make it, distribute it, or possess it. There is also a law that says the government can seize property that is “used” to distribute child pornography. So prosecutors can seize computer equipment from someone who engages in such criminal conduct. Pretty straightforward. 

But in a recent case, the federal agents not only seized the computer, but the house and the 19 acres of land on which the house was located. The prosecution argued — and an appellate court agreed [pdf] — that there was a “substantial connection” between the acreage and the offense. That is just absurd.

I am also aware of a local case in which federal agents violently executed a search warrant in a child porn‐​in‐​the‐​computer‐​case. Early morning raid, guns drawn, neighbors detained, the works. It was as if the agents were looking for a killer who recently escaped from Leavenworth. More overkill.

For more information on forfeiture, go here and here.