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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 3/21/17

Stealing from the Citizenry: How Government Goons Use Civil Asset Forfeiture to Rob Us Blind

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ricans 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, Institute for Justice.

In jolly old England, Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor.

In modern-day America, greedy government goons steal from the innocent to give to the corrupt under court-sanctioned and legislature-sanctioned schemes called civil asset forfeiture. In fact, according to The Washington Post, "law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did."

This is how the American police state continues to get rich: by stealing from the citizenry.

Here's how the whole ugly business works in a nutshell.

First, government agents (usually the police) use a broad array of tactics to profile, identify, target and arrange to encounter (in a traffic stop, on a train, in an airport, in public, or on private property) those individuals who might be traveling with a significant amount of cash or possess property of value. Second, these government agents--empowered by the courts and the legislatures--seize private property (cash, jewelry, cars, homes and other valuables) they "suspect" may be connected to criminal activity.

Then--and here's the kicker--whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, without any charges being levied against the property owner, or any real due process afforded the unlucky victim, the property is forfeited to the government, which often divvies it up with the local police who helped with the initial seizure.

It's a new, twisted form of guilt by association.

Only it's not the citizenry being accused of wrongdoing, just their money.

What this adds up to is a paradigm in which Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties. All you have to be is in possession of something the government wants.

Motorists have been particularly vulnerable to this modern-day form of highway robbery.

For instance, police stole $201,000 in cash from Lisa Leonard because the money--which Leonard planned to use to buy a house for her son--was being transported on a public highway also used by drug traffickers.

Police stole $22,000 in cash from Jerome Chennault--which he planned to use as the down payment on a home--simply because a drug dog had alerted police to its presence in his car.

Police stole $6,000 in cash from Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson and threatened to turn their young children over to Child Protective Services if they resisted.

Tenaha, Texas, is a particular hotbed of highway forfeiture activity, so much so that police officers keep pre-signed, pre-notarized documents on hand so they can fill in what property they are seizing.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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