Calif. Businessmen Seek SCOTUS Help after Police Seized $225K w/o Criminal Charges

‘Thanks to qualified immunity, police can literally come into your home and steal from you, and the courts will shield them from liability…’

Business Partners Appeal to Supreme Court after Police Seized $225K Without Criminal Charges

IMAGE: Institute for Justice

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Police in Fresno, California, in 2013 seized almost $275,000 in cash and coins from two business partners who own and manage an ATM service company—despite the fact that it did not charge them with any crimes, Forbes reported.

The police failed to find any evidence that Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian were participating in an illegal gambling operation, which they were investigating at the time.

However, they kept about $225,000 for themselves, returning only $50,000 to Jessop and Ashjian, The Institute for Justice reported in a press release.

Now Jessop and Ashjian, partnering with IJ, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case, after a trial court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to address the injustice done to them.

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“No one should be above the law, least of all those who are supposed to be enforcing it,” said IJ attorney Patrick Jaicomo.

“And yet, according to the federal courts, police officers who steal money from people cannot be held accountable because the courts have never ruled that it is unconstitutional for the police to steal from someone,” Jaicomo said. “No one really believes that theft is a reasonable seizure permitted by the Constitution. The Ninth Circuit’s decision shows how absurd qualified immunity has become.”

The 9th Circuit  tossed out Jessop and Ashjian’s lawsuit because of the Supreme Court’s “qualified immunity” doctrine, established in 1982, which prevents government officials from facing punishment for crimes committed in their official capacity unless the citizens’ rights were “clearly established.”

The 9th Circuit court ruled that “there was no clearly established law holding that officers violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment when they steal property seized pursuant to a warrant.”

When the Supreme Court established the “qualified immunity” precedent, it also provided for extreme cases in which “the violation was so obvious” that “a general constitutional rule already identified in the decisional law may apply with obvious clarity to the specific conduct in question, even though the very action in question has [not] previously been held unlawful,” Forbes reported.

“It’s time for the Supreme Court to end the failed experiment of qualified immunity,” said IJ attorney Anya Bidwell. “The fundamental purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is to protect Americans from government abuses. But thanks to qualified immunity, police can literally come into your home and steal from you, and the courts will shield them from liability.”