Sunday, May 22, 2011

Civil Asset Forfeiture is Unconstitutional and Evil

Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property or cash owned by individuals who are only charged with a crime. Law enforcement agents can seize a piece of property if they merely suspect it was used in a crime, whereas its owner must prove innocence to get it back. It doesn't even matter that no crime actually occurred! Asset forfeitures total over $2 billion a year in property. Roughly 80% of the people who lose property to seizures are never charged with a crime. All of them have to sue the government to get their property back.

This is an egregious inversion of justice and a gross violation of the Bill of Rights. Congress and each state legislature must immediately:

• Require full Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment protection for all federal proceedings against owners of personal property.
• Permit seizures of criminal profits only upon criminal conviction of its owner.
• Permit seizures of legally-owned property only if its owner is convicted of a crime, to pay for fines, court costs, or restitution.
• Withhold federal funds to all state and local law enforcement agencies that engage in civil asset forfeiture.
• Enforce the 14th Amendment's requirement that "no person shall be deprived, without due process of law" by allowing victims of state and local seizures to contest forfeitures in federal court.

Courts have failed to protect the property of persons who have never been convicted or even charged. Law enforcement agencies have even taken exploited asset forfeiture for profit and to fund/equip their departments. Congress must ensure civil asset forfeiture is immediately abolished.
Asset forfeiture is a mockery of the Bill of Rights. There is no presumption of innocence, no need to prove you guilty (or even charge you with a crime), no right to a jury trial, no right to confront your accuser, no right to a court-appointed attorney (even if the government has just stolen all your money), and no right to compensation for the property that's been taken. -- Harry Browne (1933-2006)

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