Skip to comments.Confiscating Your Property
Posted on 05/19/2010 7:17:43 AM PDT by Kaslin
In America, we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Life, liberty and property can't be taken from you unless you're convicted of a crime.
Your life and liberty may still be safe, but have you ever gone to a government surplus auction? Consumer reporters like me tell people, correctly, that they are great places to find bargains. People can buy bikes for $10, cars for $500.
But where did the government get that stuff?
Some is abandoned property.
But some I would just call loot. The cops grabbed it.
Zaher El-Ali has repaired and sold cars in Houston for 30 years. One day, he sold a truck to a man on credit. Ali was holding the title to the car until he was paid, but before he got his money the buyer was arrested for drunk driving. The cops then seized Ali's truck and kept it, planning to sell it.
Ali can't believe it
"I own that truck. That truck done nothing."
The police say they can keep it under forfeiture law because the person driving the car that day broke the law. It doesn't matter that the driver wasn't the owner. It's as if the truck committed the crime.
"I have never seen a truck drive," Ali said. I don't think it's the fault of the truck. And they know better."
Something has gone wrong when the police can seize the property of innocent people.
"Under this bizarre legal fiction called civil forfeiture, the government can take your property, including your home, your car, your cash, regardless of whether or not you are convicted of a crime. It's led to horrible abuses," says Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice, the libertarian law firm.
Bullock suggests the authorities are not just disinterested enforcers of the law.
"One of the main reasons they do this and why they love civil forfeiture is because in Texas and over 40 states and at the federal level, police and prosecutors get to keep all or most of the property that they seize for their own use," he said. "So they can use it to improve their offices, buy better equipment."
Obviously, that creates a big temptation to take stuff .
This is serious, folks. The police can seize your property if they think it was used in a crime. If you want it back, you must prove it was not used criminally. The burden of proof is on you. This reverses a centuries-old safeguard in Anglo-American law against arbitrary government power.
The feds do this, too. In 1986, the Justice Department made $94 million on forfeitures. Today, its forfeiture fund has more than a billion in it.
Radley Balko of Reason magazine keeps an eye on government property grabs: "There are lots of crazy stories about what they do with this money. There's a district attorney's office in Texas that used forfeiture money to buy an office margarita machine. Another district attorney in Texas used forfeiture money to take a junket to Hawaii for a conference."
When the DA was confronted about that, his response was, "A judge signed off on it, so it's OK." But it turned out the judge had gone with him on the junket.
Balko has reported on a case in which police confiscated cash from a man when they found it in his car. "The state's argument was that maybe he didn't get it from selling drugs, but he might use that money to buy drugs at some point in the future. Therefore, we're still allowed to take it from him," Balko said.
Sounds like that Tom Cruise movie "Minority Report," where the police predict future crimes and arrest the "perpetrator."
"When you give people the wrong incentives, people respond accordingly. And so it shouldn't be surprising that they're stretching the definition of law enforcement," Balko said. "But the fundamental point is that you should not have people out there enforcing the laws benefiting directly from them."
Balko is exactly right.
A House siezed for $500 in taxes (or HOA dues) and sold to a friend of the person who seized it at an “auction” nobody else knew about is definitely CORRUPT.
This is exactly the same thing that was done during the witch hunts.
Needless to say, the “accused” didn’t get their stuff back.
[not that they had any use for it after their “trial”, anyway]
TSA does the same thing. Prescription drugs, watches, computers, whatever is confiscated is up for grabs for TSA “officials”.
Yet another unintended consequence from the war on drugs...
This kind of outrage has been going on for a decade or more in some locations. It is govt THEFT. It also violates the equal protection clause of the constitution since one drunk may be driving a new Mercedes and another a 20 year old Chevy. The penalty for the one is vastly greater than the other. The sale of these proceeds often goes to buy the local police new equipment so they directly benefit from this THEFT.
In before all the LEO types show up to defend their part in this.
Indeed it is. On the other hand why didn’t the property owner pay the tax?
There is a presumption of guilt involved, sometimes in the complete absence of any evidence of wrongdoing.
I recall a time when the police would give someone a ride if they were polite and had had too much to drink, and to their home--not the station. Or, if in the officer's judgement you were reasonably capable, they would follow you home to make sure you arrived okay.
DUI has become a 'for profit' industry, especially with lowered BAC concentrations.
I'm not saying the DUI 'awareness' is not good, nor the reduction of drunks on the road, but the siezure of property in the absence of a conviction for a crime, especially third pary property, is well beyond what should ever have been considered 'due process'.
It is a sad day when someone carrying cash has to be as afraid of the police taking it as brigands and thieves.
Welcome to the USSA kleptocracy.
Drug cops do this routinely. They execute a search warrant, and then while the suspect is in custody, they walk through the house grabbing what they want. All on the theory that it was purchased with “drug money.” Many times the property is forfeited, sometimes the property seized is not even listed anywhere.
Oh, don’t forget, that even after they seized the stuff, as part of the conviction and sentencing for the drug crime, the drug cops get a restitution award for “costs of investigation.” Kind of like the Chinese billing the family of a person executed for the cost of the bullet.
Most of these “drug dealers” sell a few bags of pot to support their own habit. Not that it’s right, but hardly worth stealing what little they have.
And some accuse me of being a “cop hater” for being leery of the authorities...
I once read that in the middle ages, a Noble or Lord jealous of a private citizen's riches had only to accuse them of being a witch and the government (Noble or Lord) got to confiscate all the property. Too bad about the torture and all that, but hey, if they weren't a witch now they might become one in the future.
I'm not sure where the proceeds and goods should go, but there is definitely a conflict of interest when the arresting LE agency can profit from the arrest. Perhaps the proceeds could go into a crime victim's fund...
>Indeed it is. On the other hand why didnt the property owner pay the tax?
There could be several reasons:
1) Unforeseen injury.
2) Layoff / Unemployment.
3) Lost or delayed mail. ( See: Ruby Ridge )
4) Incorrect deadlines given. ( See: Ruby Ridge )
6) Mail Fraud/theft. ( Imagine HOA clandestinely removing any and all tax notifications from the recipient’s mail; imminently doable under the guise of “getting the mail for you,” especially if the tenant was elderly. )
The ACLU has opposed property seizures without prosecution for years, but they are too busy tearing down crosses to address the problem.
I doubt if such seizures are an unintended consequence from the drug war. It is foreseeable as it is human nature; more power means more corruption.
“And some accuse me of being a cop hater for being leery of the authorities...”
You’re not alone, I look at this BS and can no longer support law enforcement, they’re nothing but a bunch of thugs with badges. This kind of stuff needs to be gotten rid of but it won’t because too many people profit from it.
One guy who repeatedly pulled that stunt got so rich his neighbor then accused him.
The first guy was slowly crushed to death under a door with stones piled on it.
Then that [now very rich] accuser had an “epiphany” and declared the witch trials to be ridiculous and ended them.
In before all the LEO types show up to defend their part in this.
Let’s not forget the “If you haven’t done anything, you don’t have to worry.” types, and the “Who you gonna call, cops are all great it’s just a tough job they put their life on the line for you so it’s ok.” crowd. And, the “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them” guys.
The Knights Templar were accused of heresy and condemned, not because they were heretics, but because they had money and property that the King of France wanted for his own.
Watching “the Tudors” and was amused that the list of all the religious orders in England was presented to King Henry VIII as 1) how much wealth and property they own, then 2) the crimes they can be accused of if we want to take their wealth and property.
This judicial looting was started by rabid proponents of the drug war, and as such it makes a little sense that profit gained by illegal activity might be subject to government seizure. But now it has spread to taking the trucks of drunk drivers. The drunk driver did not buy his truck from the proceeds of his illegal activity, and I cannot see the justification for taking his truck (especially when it, as in this case, isn't even HIS truck).
How ignorant of history do you have to be before you think giving the government the power to take private property after a finding of judicial guilt (or even, as in this case, before any adjudication of guilt even takes place) is not a perverse incentive to rampant judicial and economic abuse by the government against its citizens?
>Most of these drug dealers sell a few bags of pot to support their own habit. Not that its right, but hardly worth stealing what little they have.
It is obviously immoral to divest someone of all their belongings.
But therein lies a [common societal/psycological] problem: theft from ‘the rich’ is still theft.
Ever heard of being "land poor"?
Suppose a retired person on limited, fixed income has inherited a large piece of property (the old family farm) that no one will buy. The tax assessor slaps a huge tax on it -- far above his abiiity to pay.
What would you do if it were you?
Don’t ask me how civil asset forfeiture can possibly be constitutional under a fair reading of the 4th and 5th Amendments:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against UNREASONABLE searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or THINGS to be seized.”
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or PROPERTY, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
They have no right to seize property without it being specifically listed in a warrant and the owner being proven guilty, notwithstanding the RIDICULOUS concept of property being “tainted” when it is used in a crime, a concept that is nowhere found in the US Constitution. For more:
A police officer and his family recently moved next door. They seem like very good people, and probably are. However, I have wondered since Day 1 how a cop could afford 2 fairly new Mercedes. This article seems to offer an answer though, in all fairness, I don’t know it for a fact.
I do know, for a fact, that the civil forfeiture laws are an abomination, and must be reversed.
Also, in the 4th amendment EFFECTS is the same as PROPERTY.
I agree; theft is still theft whether from rich or poor.
At least in Minority Report, the people were actually going to commit the crime. They didn't just go and bust into people houses and drag them out cause they wanted their stuff. This is actually WORSE than Minority Report.
Maybe I should write one of these for the police:
Here in California cops can easily make $150K...before overtime and extracurriculars.
Need I go on?
Thanks for painting all of us with the same brush.
Failure to pay property tax is about the one time that I could see a asset forfeiture being justified. The crime has already been committed, and they're not seizing the house because the house did something wrong, like the absurd way they justify the other forfeitures of unrelated goods; they're going to sell the house to get money you already owe them. I do think there should be some safeguards even then. They can't take it until the taxes have been late for a couple years running, so it can't just be a situation where the bill or the payment got lost in the mail. And there should be an independent assessment, with the surplus amount over the tax lien returned to the owner. Then there's no incentive to run a fake "auction" where your brother-in-law buys the place for $5,000 or something, unless the place really is a heap only worth $5,000.
I made it very clear that this particular couple seemed to be very nice and probably were, and that I had no factual basis for thinking the cop himself to be corrupt.
It is, however, strange that a San Antonio, Texas police officer (and this guy is no more than about 42 years old, not some super senior guy, and not a high-ranking officer, either) can afford 2 fairly new Mercedes.
Unfortunately for you, the old saying that “one rotten apple spoils the entire barrel” holds true. Police do not self-regulate enough, allowing the few truly bad actors to continue to enrich themselves and to otherwise abuse their power. What are we mere civilians supposed to think when there are such obvious abuses that are seemingly never addressed?
You are correct. This civil asset forfeiture is the stuff of nightmares.
Decide to carry a large amount of cash? Better be careful not to draw the attention of the police. Even a simple traffic stop for speeding, and the entire bankroll could be seized. The burden of proving it wasn’t drug money, including legal expenses, fall on the property owner.
Loan someone your car? Think again if there is the slightest risk they might drive drunk, or say goodbye to your property!
In this age, no one is innocent. There are so many laws, we are all guilty of breaking at least some of them. With civil asset forfeiture laws and ridiculous SCOTUS rulings upholding them, none of us a secure in our property.
Rots o' ruck to them. This practice is indefensible.
I have to disagree with you. I have never hesitated turning in a rogue, and I know of instances that my fellow officers have done the same.
This young officer could have well gotten his money legitimately (inheritance, wife's inheritance, extra duties, etc). RICO money is not given to individual officers; it is kept by the department, or in many cases, turned over to the municipality's general fund.
Many of those who post on this site choose to find all law enforcement guilty. They look for fault like there was a reward for it.
Traffic fines could go into a pot to help those who carry auto insurance, but have been screwed by those who don't. Cover the costs of deductibles in those cases.
What do you call policemen who cover up crimes committed by their brothers in blue? Does aiding and abetting ring a bell?
And you have first hand knowledge that this is prevalent and that all LEOs do it?
I would not be surprised that there are more crooks in your chosen filed than mine.
It was a little more insidious than that. The King of France was heavily in debt to the Templars. Rather than pay up, he simply had them arrested and executed.
Try reading and comprehending my post before putting in your response.
Freepers fall into all kinds of categories. Some of us don’t trust law enforcement, judges and the district attorney’s office because they have first-hand experience of corruption, such as being found guilty for a crime they had absolutely nothing to do with.
Please don’t misunderstand my post. I agree with you 100 per cent in that there have been innocents unjustly and wrongly accused, prosecuted and convicted. My ire is with those who paint all LEOs with the same brush.
My Sgt. told me 30 some years ago that once I was convinced that someone was guilty, to do everything I could to find him innocent. If I could not, then I had a good case.
Never lost one due to a poor investigation. More due to deal making by the prosecution and the defense.
Yep the five who voted to uphold stealing a Michigan woman’s car that her husband used to buy sex in were Scalia, Thomas, Renquist, OConnor and Ginsburg. A very unfortunate decision in my view.
Understood. That's how I read your post but I always have to mention what happened to some of us. Well, at least one of us.
My father was deputy reserve so I've seen both sides.
Stay Safe... ;>)
What do you mean?
How and when does TSA do this?
Watches, Jewelry, etc?
thats not the other hand...the other hand is why the gov gets to screw the bank on the outstanding loan, just to get their $500...???