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Forfeiture... Govt. Theft


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Thieving and Reprehensible Government

May 21, 2012 by Dan Mitchell

I hope you’re a libertarian already. But if you’re not, I hope you’ll be one after you finish reading this post.

And if you’re not a libertarian after reading this post, I suggest you emigrate to Zimbabwe, or some other place where government has unchecked and arbitrary power to steal. You’ll feel right at home.

This post is about the disgusting practice of “asset forfeiture,” which is basically a scheme that allows government to steal people’s property and money.

I’ve already posted a great video from the Institute for Justice about this topic, and I also suggest you read this horror story and this nauseating episode to see how asset forfeiture works in the real world.

Now let’s look at two new examples of theft by government.

Let’s start with some excerpts from a George Will column.

 

Russ Caswell, 68, is bewildered: “What country are we in?” He and his wife, Pat, are ensnared in a Kafkaesque nightmare unfolding in Orwellian language. This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law — which is less permissive than federal law — to seize his livelihood and retirement asset. In the lawsuit titled 
 the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million. The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime.

Is Will’s language over the top? Hardly, as you can see from this excerpt. The government is trying to steal the hotel because a tiny percentage of guests engaged in victimless crimes.

 

Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug-dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate — the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate — these 30 episodes involved less than 5/100ths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days. Yet this is the government’s excuse for impoverishing the Caswells by seizing this property, which is their only significant source of income and all of their retirement security. The government says the rooms were used to “facilitate” a crime. It does not say the Caswells knew or even that they were supposed to know what was going on in all their rooms all the time. Civil forfeiture law treats citizens worse than criminals, requiring them to prove their innocence — to prove they did everything possible to prevent those rare crimes from occurring in a few of those rooms. What counts as possible remains vague.

Amazing. You’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent, even though you’ve done nothing wrong.

The government officials should be the ones arrested and thrown in jail.

Now let’s look at a Huff Post column by Radley Balko.

 

When the Brown County, Wis., Drug Task Force arrested her son Joel last February, Beverly Greer started piecing together his bail. She used part of her disability payment and her tax return. Joel Greer’s wife also chipped in, as did his brother and two sisters. On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer’s bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. “The police specifically told us to bring cash,” Greer says. “Not a cashier’s check or a credit card. They said cash.” So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she’d be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son. Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers’ cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills — and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money.

You probably can figure out the rest of the story. Radley’s column has a lot of additional details, but here are a couple of passages to whet your appetite.

 

The Greers had been subjected to civil asset forfeiture, a policy that lets police confiscate money and property even if they can only loosely connect them to drug activity. The cash, or revenue from the property seized, often goes back to the coffers of the police department that confiscated it. It’s a policy critics say is often abused, but experts told The HuffPost that the way the law is applied to bail money in Brown County is exceptionally unfair. It took four months for Beverly Greer to get her family’s money back, and then only after attorney Andy Williams agreed to take their case. “The family produced the ATM receipts proving that had recently withdrawn the money,” Williams says. “Beverly Greer had documentation for her disability check and her tax return. Even then, the police tried to keep their money.” …Civil asset forfeiture is based on the premise that a piece of property — a car, a pile of cash, a house — can be guilty of a crime. Laws vary from state to state, but generally, law enforcement officials can seize property if they can show any connection between the property and illegal activity. It is then up to the owner of the property to prove in court that he owns it or earned it legitimately. It doesn’t require a property owner to actually be convicted of a crime. In fact, most people who lose property to civil asset forfeiture are never charged.

It’s probably worth noting that this is another example of government stealing when the underlying offense was a victimless crime. I reckon this must be aturbo-charged version of Mitchell’s Law.

P.S. Just in case you’re pro-Drug War, here are some examples of government thuggery that don’t involve persecution of victimless crimes. This post shows how the IRS can run amok, engaging in brutal persecution. And here’s a story of the government targeting a low-level person for inexplicable reasons.

Both these stories should turn you into a raving libertarian. In which case, welcome to the club!

 

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So wrong libertarians don't want the gov. To have the oversight.2.2 Environment

 

We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.

2.3 Energy and Resources

 

While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.

2.4 Government Finance and Spending

 

All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.

2.5 Money and Financial Markets

 

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.

2.6 Monopolies and Corporations

 

We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.

2.7 Labor Markets

 

We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.

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So wrong libertarians don't want the gov. To have the oversight.2.2 Environment

 

We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.

2.3 Energy and Resources

 

While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.

2.4 Government Finance and Spending

 

All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.

2.5 Money and Financial Markets

 

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.

2.6 Monopolies and Corporations

 

We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.

2.7 Labor Markets

 

We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.

That just proved my point!  Liberterians don't want oversight of the environment and Wall Street.  They think we can trust big business to police themselves.

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Closer to home!!! http://www.ij.org/michigan-civil-forfeiture-release-9-25-2013

 

Can the government use civil forfeiture to take your money when you have done nothing wrong—and then pocket the proceeds?   

That is the question to be answered by a major federal lawsuit filed today by Terry and Sandy Dehko—owners of a family grocery store in Fraser, Mich.—and the Institute for Justice (IJ).  In January 2013, Terry and Sandy were astonished to discover the federal government seized their entire checking account without warning, even though the Dehkos did nothing wrong.   

“Federal forfeiture law allows the government to take your entire bank account just because it doesn’t like the way you deposit or withdraw your money,” said IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily.  “The government should not be allowed to just show up at your doorstep like a playground bully and take away your milk money.  But that’s exactly what the government did to Terry and Sandy.” 

Like most grocery store owners, Terry and Sandy receive cash every day from their customers.  Their commonsense practice has always been to avoid letting too much cash accumulate in their store. Moreover, their insurance policy specifically limits coverage for theft or other loss of cash to $10,000—a common provision for small-business policies.

Over the past several years, however, the government has been collecting vast amounts of private information about Americans, including entrepreneurs like Terry and Sandy that deal in cash.  In 2001, the Patriot Act amended federal law to make it easier for the government to seize money and other private property through civil forfeiture.  Federal law requires banks to report cash transactions above $10,000, and it is illegal to “structure” cash deposits for the purpose of avoiding this requirement. 

In 2010, the IRS visited Terry and Sandy and reviewed their banking practices.  In 2012, the IRS conducted an anti-money-laundering examination of Terry and Sandy’s store, thoroughly reviewing their books and policies, and gave the Dehkos a clean bill of health.  After the audit, the IRS sent Terry and Sandy a letter clarifying that “no violations [of banking laws] were identified.”

But nine months later, the IRS obtained a secret warrant and cleaned out Terry and Sandy’s entire bank account (over $35,000) on the grounds that their frequent cash deposits—deposits of which the IRS should have been well aware when it issued its clean bill of health—violated federal “structuring” law.  The government never charged Terry and Sandy with any crime and refuses to return their money.  

Terry and Sandy are still waiting for a hearing before a judge.  Unfortunately, civil forfeiture allows the government to violate due process by seizing private property from Americans without ever convicting or even charging them with wrongdoing.  Perversely, the government then pockets the proceeds while providing no prompt way to get a court to review the seizure. 

“Last year alone, the government took in more than four billion dollars in forfeiture money,” said IJ Attorney Larry Salzman.  “Taking money from innocent people like Terry and Sandy is wrong.  Thankfully, the Dehkos are prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to vindicate the right to private property for Americans everywhere.” 

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” said IJ client Sandy Dehko.  “That’s why we teamed up with the Institute for Justice, to protect the rights of all Americans against civil forfeiture.”

The Institute for Justice has come to the defense of Americans nationwide to fight forfeiture abuse, including the owners of the Motel Caswell in Massachusetts, the owner of a small commercial building in California, and the owner of a truck seized in Texas.  In 2010, IJ published the landmark report on civil forfeiture, Policing for Profit.

 

Regards,

C

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My reason for posting this had nothing to do with libertarianism or anyone becoming a libertarian. Though it does seem that they're often the only ones pointing out things like this. This sort of tyranny should concern people from every political persuasion. 

 

I was looking at the last sentence of your original post:

 

Both these stories should turn you into a raving libertarian. In which case, welcome to the club!

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My reason for posting this had nothing to do with libertarianism or anyone becoming a libertarian. Though it does seem that they're often the only ones pointing out things like this. This sort of tyranny should concern people from every political persuasion. 

 

Are we referring to big "L" Libertarian (the political party) or small "l" libertarian (the political philosophy)?

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