Colorado, like most states, forces convicted criminals to pay court costs, fees, and restitution after they’ve been found guilty. But the question arises, “What happens when someone who’s been found guilty, has paid their dues, and then has their convictions overturned on appeal? Do they get their money back?” Not in many states, like Colorado. But all of that has changed after a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

The state not stealing money from innocent people sounds like common sense, right? Well, unfortunately, in the land of the free, it was necessary for SCOTUS to step in and tell the greedy state that they do not have a right to steal people’s money.

According to Forbes, “defendants, Shannon Nelson and Louis Madden, were convicted for sexual offenses and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in court costs, fees and restitution. Between her conviction and later acquittal, the state withheld $702 from Nelson’s inmate account, while Madden paid Colorado $1,977 after his conviction. When their convictions were overturned, Nelson and Madden demanded their money back.”

Colorado refused, even after the plaintiffs won in a state-level appellate court. The state, instead, insisted that if they wanted their money back, they’d have to file a claim under the Exoneration Act, forcing the defendants to once again prove their innocence to retrieve their funds. The plaintiffs appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, who sided with the citizens in a 7-1 ruling, declaring Colorado’s law unconstitutional.


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion for the court declaring “the Exoneration Act’s scheme does not comport with the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.”

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Ginsburg wrote that Nelson and Madden are “entitled to be presumed innocent” and “should not be saddled with any proof burden” to reclaim what is already theirs. In other words, they shouldn’t have to demonstrate they’re not criminals after the court has already made such a determination. According to Forbes:

Ginsburg forcefully rejected Colorado’s argument that “[t]he presumption of innocence applies only at criminal trials,” and not to civil claims, as under the Exoneration Act:  “Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions.”

The decision, on its surface, may not seem like much but holds promise for putting an end to the much criticized practice of local law enforcement agencies around the country who engage in civil asset forfeiture.

The Free Thought Project has worked diligently to highlight such fiscally abusive practices taking place all around the country. Take for instance rapper Blac Youngsta’s recent run-in with the law back in January.

He was detained by Atlanta police withdrawing $200,000 cash from his bank account. He’d planned to take the money and buy his favorite sports car but police were notified and Youngsta was detained as being a possible bank robbery suspect.

Youngsta and his entourage were apprehended while police pointed their weapons at them. The so-called authorities then put everyone in handcuffs, confiscated their personal weapons, and took half of the rapper’s $200,000 withdrawal saying he could get it back after it was processed as evidence at police headquarters.

In essence, the police seized his money and forced the rapper to reclaim his own funds after proving he was entitled to it. They robbed him. The police shakedown made international news and smacked in the face of common sense, as many were left scratching their heads and asking how police could get away with doing what common street thugs often do, take other people’s money.

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Matt Agorist with TFTP reported, from 1998 to 2010, more than 12 billion dollars was raked in from law enforcement at all levels of government. This translated into the government taking away 600 million more dollars than all the robberies and thefts during that same period, making authorities seem more crooked than the individuals they’re trying to arrest.

And the practice isn’t limited to local law enforcement either. As we previously reported, the “DEA seized more than $4 billion in cash from people since 2007, but $3.2 billion of the seizures were never connected to any criminal charges. That figure does not even include the seizure of cars and electronics.”

The Inspector General of the Justice Department concluded their practices constituted a threat to everyone’s civil liberties, and now, apparently, the SCOTUS agrees. Everyone is entitled to due process under the law and are likewise entitled to keeping their assets once they’re found not guilty in criminal court. It’s a good day to be an American. Maybe now law enforcement at all levels will stop such controversial practices.

Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine
  • The Cat’s Vagina

    The so-called authorities then put everyone in handcuffs, confiscated their personal weapons, and took half of the rapper’s $200,000 withdrawal saying he could get it back after it was processed as evidence at police headquarters.

    See, this PROVES it was a shakedown! Why take only half if you thought it was “dirty money”? Because they KNEW he’d fight tooth and nail for the whole amount, but greedily hoped he’d cut his losses and walk away if they didn’t take everything. So, yeah… this is dirty all around. If they DIDN’T rob an innocent man, they let a “criminal” get away with half the loot!

    • Zackknowitall

      A real gangsta would have green lighted a hit on the cops fam yo!

      • The Cat’s Vagina

        Naw, a “real gangsta” would have done a happy dance that they let him keep 100K of ill-gotten funds.

    • Bud


  • Ohio0331

    Nothing will change police ignore Supreme Court rulings all the time

    • Tom

      Just as cops and prosecutors routinely do all the time.

  • OneGoodDeed

    Yet civil asset forfeiture goes on unabated.

    • Tom

      It make take the Feds, armed and making forceful arrests to force a change.

      • ? the feds are taking the money . it may take the people, armed and defending our property, to force a change

  • Just4You

    Worth pointing out that Thomas was the dissenting vote & Gorsuch abstained from the decision

    • Tom

      If that’s true, I’m disappointed in Clarence Thomas.

      • The Cat’s Vagina

        When has he ever set a standard high enough to disappoint?

        • Guy

          Never has and never will either. How many majority opinions has he written since he was appointed ? 0 ?

          • i’m convinced he doesn’t ask questions during session because he’s an idiot

          • Bud

            Then YOU would be the idiot.

          • Guy

            Even a idiot can get lucky sometimes. Thomas can’t even seem to do that ! Except to be the minority on the team and poke awake Ginsburg when she falls asleep !

          • ginsburg doesn’t fall asleep

  • Linda Jones

    Civil forfeiture must stop the abuses of civil rights are at the utmost high in BC ..I know several who have been raped by our justice department how can this be stopped here

    • Bud

      BC? As in the People’s Republic of Canada?

  • Tom

    Law enforcement and prosecutors will not stop the practice – there’s way too much profit in stealing people’s money and assets. Just as many law enforcement agents continue arresting and prosecuting citizens buying or using marijuana AFTER laws have changed, making it legal, they will continue with their criminal ways of seizing innocent people’s assets.

    • Mary Snyder

      They may not stop it immediately but potential lawsuits by victims will give them pause until they get the message.

  • Speckintime

    Always follow the money, there is no way these terrorist groups can survive without depending on deep pockets, the real devils you never see and the show continues.

    The problem with power is not only does it corrupt but it also draws in the most corrupt to it, that is why mankind continues on the same path no matter who takes power.

    The US could make a real change if we the people would raise up patriots in third parties and vote out every incumbent at every election or corrupt laws could be neutered by jury nullification but unfortunately that is not happening.

    The corruption is not only in the government that sells the lies and promises but it is also in We the People that buy into the lies and promises.

    Trump is proving himself to be just another puppet like all the rest, there were no Knights in Shining Armor coming to the rescue.

    The bad decisions of powerful people often hurts innocent people, unfortunately this country has been corrupt to the core for decades if not from the very beginning and it has involved both parties.

    This is what you get when We The People allow our country to be the best that money can buy.

    It all makes perfect sense when you realize that Mammon is the god that they Trust and Serve.

    Oh how we care, yet we never dare look to the heart of the matter.
    How men of great greed, get what they need, purses that only get fatter. 😮

    The whole plan of those hiding behind the curtain is to destroy nations, crash economies, shut down free speech, flood the world with terrorists then get the people to beg to have their rights and freedoms taken away in order to be safe.

    These powers that be want you to be a slave, a criminal or dead.

    The End Game is the greatest redistribution of wealth the world has ever seen to a very select few that will drive mankind to the brink of extinction fighting over it. O.o

    Unfortunately as technology grows the corruption becomes more deadly, that is why mankind is heading either toward Revelations or extinction.

    • Guy

      So who are you going to get to do your work, Feinstein, Boxer and Pelosi ? Maybe Obama will come on back for the right price, if it’s high enough to suit him and Michelle, that is if he’s not to busy planning his $500 Million Dollar Library or counting his $70 Million Dollar Book Advancement !

      • Speckintime

        That’s the problem Guy Corruptions the Rule and the World’s Full of Fools, there are no heroes coming to save you. Revelations or Extinction?????????????

  • Guy

    No they won’t stop taking you money, as in asset forfeitures. If a court rules against,they (State & Police) will just find a loop hole around it ! Too much money involved and to much to lose by the Police State to give that up.

  • I would like to know who was the dissenting SCOTUS…

    • clarence thomas . gorsuch abstained

      • Bud

        The case was undoubtedly argued before Gorsuch was on the bench. He would have to abstain.

  • TomKi

    More than 30 years late, but it has proven that the legal system we have has no validity.

  • And it’s not just theft by government. The government sets up illicit drug rings in states selling class III federally illegal drugs as “medicinal” but arrests people out smoking a joint. Makes no sense. How can a state get away with blatant, willful violation of federal law, yet jail citizens doing the same?