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.