When a government wants to increase taxes, the whole democratic process thing can feel a bit cumbersome. They usually have to offer huge incentives or disguise the plan as a way to protect the public from some harm- either real or imagined.
That’s exactly what Trump’s Attorney General is doing by expanding the civil asset forfeiture powers of law enforcement agencies all across the nation.
Civil assetforfeiture is an Orwellian name for the legal theft of private property suspected of being used in a crime. In these cases, property is declared to be under suspicion as having been used to finance, aid, facilitate or otherwise function as a tool to break the law.
There is no due process standing between law enforcement people and the property they wish to take. None. All that needs to happen is police declare your property may have been used, or is intended to be used, to commit a crime and they can take it.
This law has been sold as a necessary tool that police can use to prosecute the war on drugs and other large-scale initiatives. But no matter what you think about these programs, asset forfeiture has been used time and time again to deprive innocent people who have yet to be convicted of a crime of their private property.
Recently, a Philadelphia family who had only just finished paying off their mortgage had their home seized by police because their son- who was away at college- was under suspicion of selling marijuana. The police began by searching the young man’s car- and when they found nothing they turned their sights on the family home.
In 2015, a casino winner set out on vacation to enjoy his winnings when Nevada police suddenly appeared to pull him over and confiscated the entire sum which added up to roughly $50,000. The man, Tan Nguyen, was threatened with the seizure of even more property by the police officer should he speak up about the event. Nguyen was able to recover his money by suing the police department. His lawyer fees and his time, however, were nonrefundable.
In the same year, the same officer who targeted Nguyen went after another man using the same tactic. The victim, Matt Lee, ended up getting his money back as well. As far as we know, the police officer has suffered no repercussions for his behavior — since what he did was entirely legal under civil forfeiture laws.
In 2008, at the annual “Funk Night” at the Detroit Contemporary Art Institute, the police passed out loitering tickets to event goers and impounded over 40 vehicles on the grounds that the vehicles were driven in order that their owners could commit the egregious act of loitering. All of the victims were able to get their cars back, except for one man whose car was stolen from the impound lot.
In 2013, a Mississippi highway patrol officer made a routine traffic stop. During the inspection, he found $360,000 in a secret compartment in the vehicle. Because the money was hidden, the officer claimed, he said there was reason to believe it was intended for use in the commission of a crime.
That same year in New Jersey, a Tennessee man’s money was taken during a traffic stop. George Reby was carrying $22,000 in cash which the officers claimed must be intended to use to purchase drugs. Reby said the money was meant to purchase a car that he had won in an eBay auction. The officer failed to mention this in his report.
Reby told a local news station, “If somebody told me this happened to them, I absolutely would not believe this could happen in America.”
Indeed, it is un-American on its face — the on the spot seizure of cash or property simply because a police officer was able to imagine a way that the cash or capital was intended for use in illegal acts.
It’s hard to imagine that the police would target innocent people for reasons that can only be described as personal greed. Nevertheless, Jeff Sessions has declared asset forfeiture a key to winning the war on drugs.
It’s a move that has taken President Donald Trump by surprise. According to him, Sessions is acting out of turn – and we may be getting closer to another round of house cleaning in Washington.
~ Conservative Zone