Confiscating Our Property Can Be Un-American
by Lowell Ponte
In 2015, American law enforcement used civil asset forfeiture laws to seize more than $5 Billion from people.
This is “more money than was stolen in all burglaries, combined” that year, as Craig R. Smith and I document in our latest book, Money, Morality & The Machine: Smith’s Law in an Unethical, Over-Governed Age.
When Ronald Reagan supported the wide use of civil asset forfeiture, his aim was to stop letting crime pay by confiscating what its dirty money – especially illegal drug money – buys.
New President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as defenders of capitalism and private property, ought to oppose the way civil asset forfeiture laws are now sometimes misused against innocent citizens by money-hungry governments.
In civil asset forfeiture, please understand, a police officer can confiscate a citizen’s cash, charge the money but not the citizen with criminal activity, and keep the money if that citizen is unable to prove that the money is legitimately his.
This process circumvents constitutional rights. You are not “innocent until proven guilty.” You are typically not even charged, so you have no right to a day in court. The burden of proof is on you to prove that your money or other property did not come from dealing drugs (and 90 percent of paper money in circulation has tiny traces of cocaine or other drugs on them) or other criminal activity.
The worst asset forfeiture law reigned briefly in the city of Helper, Utah, where individual lawmen could receive 25 percent of whatever money or assets they seized. All that an officer needed to confiscate someone’s million-dollar house or luxury car might be to find a fragment of a marijuana cigarette on or in the property.
Although almost all officers are honest, many police departments stand to keep all or most of the money or assets they seize. Officers might have incentive to pursue the richest, not the worst, members of society. In one California case, lawmen killed an innocent homeowner during a midnight drug raid, yet they found no drugs. Lawyers later found police notes planning all they would buy with the money from seizing his large property.
States such as California, Nebraska and Ohio now require conviction of a crime to justify civil asset forfeiture. Lesser reforms have happened in several other states. What is needed is to end the perverse incentive of law enforcement keeping what it confiscates. Imagine what Washington bureaucrats might do with such power. President Trump should spearhead wise reform to protect innocent people and their property.
A prime use of civil asset forfeiture laws is to intimidate people who carry significant amounts of cash, which government can often now seize on the thinnest of pretexts. Your bank is now required to notify the IRS of any large or “unusual” deposit or withdrawal in cash from your account, to spy on you for the government. Civil asset forfeiture grew rapidly during President Barack Obama’s two terms.
In the future “cashless” world desired by globalist elites, all transactions would go through computer connections monitored by the government and be fully taxable. Your new “cashless” money would be mere blips in a computer. Private transactions would disappear, and so would any remaining hope of restoring honest money.
For a fascinating interview with Lowell Ponte, contact: Sandy Frazier at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 516-735-5468.
For a media copy of Craig R. Smith and Lowell Ponte’s latest book, Money, Morality & The Machine: Smith’s Law in an Unethical, Over-Governed Age, contact: David Bradshaw at email@example.com or call 602-918-3296.
1. Craig R. Smith and Lowell Ponte, Money, Morality & The Machine: Smith’s Law in an Unethical, Over-Governed Age. Phoenix: P2 Press, 2016. Page 124.
2. ”Libertarians Split with Trump Over Controversial Police Tactic,” Fox News, February 13, 2017. URL: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/13/libertarians-split-with-trump-over-controversial-police-tactic.html
3. C.J. Ciaramella, “Inside Mississippi’s Asset Forfeiture Extortion Racket,” Reason, January 5, 2017. URL: http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/05/inside-mississippis-asset-forfeiture-ext