Although the term is used in a different way, it is literally true of asset forfeiture. Using it, law enforcement sucks billions of dollars from the pockets of Americans who more often than not, have not been convicted, or even charged with a crime. And both state and federal cops are using it in ways never intended.
According to the Daily Caller, and written by Anders Hagstrom, on Monday,
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions propped up civil asset forfeiture Monday, claiming the program is a “key tool” that allows law enforcement officers to effectively fight the drug war. “Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed. It weakens the criminals and the cartels,” Sessions said in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association.
“Civil asset forfeiture takes the material support of the criminals and makes it the material support of law enforcement. Sessions has been a staunch advocate for civil forfeiture throughout his tenure, issuing new policy guidelines in July encouraging law enforcement officers to make more forfeitures. The practice allows agents to take and keep property thought to be connected to a crime, even if its owner hasn’t been convicted or even charged with a crime.”
In reality, many of those who are caught up in this net are average people, many totally innocent, but most petty criminals not involved in racketeereing activities at all. And Attorney General Sessions has nevertheless just upped the anty. His prepared remarks included these statements.
“That’s why we have reinstated our equitable sharing program at the Department of Justice. Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed. It weakens the criminals and the cartels. Civil asset forfeiture takes the material support of the criminals and makes it the material support of law enforcement. In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives. And there is nothing wrong with adoptive forfeitures. There can be no federal adoption if the forfeiture is not called for under federal law. In many cases, adoptive forfeitures represent great partnerships between federal and state law enforcement.” Source: https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/attorney-general-sessions-delivers-remarks-national-sheriffs-association
And on the state level, many are willing participants in this policing for profit scheme. Reason.com published a story from Alabama where a small businessowner was ruined by money-hungry looters in uniform, and he was totally innocent.
A news report from Alabama offers two textbook cases of how sweeping powers of civil asset forfeiture allow police to seize people’s property with near impunity.
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can take property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not charged with a crime. Law enforcement and prosecutors say the practice is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by targeting ill-gotten gains. But in state after state, horror stories have emerged of regular people having their possessions expropriated and their lives turned upside down.
In the Alabama case, around 20 heavily armed officers raided Frank Ranelli’s computer repair shop in Ensley in 2010, on a tip that Ranelli was selling stolen goods. Police seized roughly 130 computers from the shop, most of them belonging to customers.
The Alabama news outlet Al.com reports what happened next:
Nothing ever came of the case. The single charge of receiving stolen goods was dismissed after Ranelli demonstrated that he had followed proper protocol in purchasing the sole laptop computer he was accused of receiving illegally.
Yet none of the property seized by police that summer morning more than seven years ago has been returned to him.
“Here I was, a man, owned this business, been coming to work every day like a good old guy for 23 years, and I show up at work that morning—I was in here doing my books from the day before—and the police just f***ed my life,” he said.
CSPOA strongly opposes the current laws relating to asset forfeiture, and urges members to advocate with their legislators for strengthening the 4th amendment and due process protections in these cases.