Saturday, August 4, 2012

Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws are an Instrument of Government Plunder and Terror

The government is in the business of criminalizing just about every possible human behavior for no purpose other than to increase revenues to grow state power. Civil forfeiture statutes have long been a vital weapon in the government's arsenal of terror and plunder.  Moreover, a person doesn't even have to be convicted of a crime for civil forfeiture laws to kick in.  Government at all levels routinely invokes nasty civil forfeiture statutes to steal what ever it wants.  Effectively, civil forfeiture statutes are nothing more than a license to steal and plunder.

The Institute for Justice defines civil forfeiture, here.
Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where property is taken after its owner has been found guilty in a court of law, with civil forfeiture, owners need not be charged with or convicted of a crime to lose homes, cars, cash or other property.

Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but civil forfeiture turns that principle on its head. With civil forfeiture, your property is guilty until you prove it innocent.

Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture chronicles how state and federal laws leave innocent property owners vulnerable to forfeiture abuse and encourage law enforcement to take property to boost their budgets. The report finds that by giving law enforcement a direct financial stake in forfeiture efforts, most state and federal laws encourage policing for profit, not justice.

Policing for Profit also grades the states on how well they protect property owners—only three states receive a B or better. And in most states, public accountability is limited as there is little oversight or reporting about how police and prosecutors use civil forfeiture or spend the proceeds.

Federal laws encourage even more civil forfeiture abuse through a loophole called “equitable sharing” that allows law enforcement to circumvent even the limited protections of state laws. With equitable sharing, law enforcement agencies can and do profit from forfeitures they wouldn’t be able to under state law.

It’s time to end civil forfeiture. People shouldn’t lose their property without being convicted of a crime, and law enforcement shouldn’t be able to profit from other people’s property.
Recently, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced legislation to somewhat rein in federal civil forfeiture powers as it relates to legal marijuana dispensaries.

 Bill Would Stop the DOJ From Using Forfeiture to Shut Down Medical Marijuana Suppliers
Yesterday Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would stop the Justice Department from using civil asset forfeiture threats to close down medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating in compliance with state law. "For more than a year," Americans for Safe Access notes, "the DOJ has been engaged in a campaign to undermine the implementation of state law by threatening real property owners with asset forfeiture if they do not promptly evict their state law-compliant medical cannabis businesses." Many dispensaries in states such California, Colorado, and Washington have closed as a result of these threats. Lee's bill, the States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, would add the following language to the Controlled Substances Act:

No real property, including any right, title, and interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land and any appurtenances or improvements, shall be subject to forfeiture under subparagraph (A) due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.
Representative Lee's bill is a good start on an issue that definitely needs to be brought out of the closet. Americans really need to wake up and fight civil forfeiture statues at all levels.

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