James Slatic is a medical marijuana business owner and Dad. Slatic recentlyfound out his entire family's bank accounts had been seized when his 19-year-old daughter's card was declined at the San Jose State University cafeteria. Civil asset-forfeiture is the tool police departments use to rely on a steady flow of cash, or what the Institute for Justice calls “policing for profit.”
Earlier this year, Slatic's Med-West Distribution facility in Kearny Mesa was raided by police. By the time they were done, police had seized $324,000 in cash, not including the value of the inventory. Police claimed he violated a California statute that bans the chemical extraction of controlled substances. Slatic says that he merely refined hash oil, and was not guilty of a full-blown extraction process.
"Just imagine what it's like when you're a 57-year-old business man with three kids and a house, and supporting elderly parents, and all the sudden all your money is gone," told Reason. "It's disappeared. Your car payment bounces, your insurance doesn't go through."
Punishing James by seizing his personal account wasn't enough. The San Diego police froze all of their bank accounts including $55,258 from Slatic's personal account, $34,175 from his wife Annette's account, and a total of $11,260 from the savings accounts of his two teenage daughters, Penny and Lily. According to Slatic's attorney, their was no link between his business and the bank accounts belonging to his daughters.
When Slatic's company was raided, he also lost his 35 employees. Slatic's employees at Med-West were caught on camera being escorted out at gunpoint. The employees lost not only their jobs but all of their benefits. The District Attorney's office is refusing to refund the cash, despite the fact that Slatic hasn't been officially charged with a crime.
“It’s the dirty little secret of the American justice system,” Slatic told the San Diego Tribune. “They can come in and take all your money and property just on the say-so of a police officer. Once they do that, you have to go to court and prove why your money is not guilty.”
The Institute for Justice filed a motion in California's district court to return approximately $100,000 of Slatic's money. Slatic's attorney, Wesley Hottot, believes that the case stinks of brazen and illegal asset forfeiture. "I've not come across an abusive civil forfeiture this shocking," Hottot said.
A new bill is underway to protect criminals from having more than $40,000 in assets seized for a criminal conviction.