Letter: Take a closer look at civil asset forfeiture; in some cases, it’s robbery
Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this letter at http://www.vaildaily.com.
I read Jonathan Thompson’s slant on civil asset forfeiture (“Good intentions don’t keep communities safe,” Wednesday, Nov. 15). That’s where police take your property based on suspicion it’s involved in criminal activity; no conviction or criminal charge is necessary.
That’s the part Thompson conveniently omitted. Thompson whole-heartily supported the idea the state has the right to take property and money from citizens and use it to take under-privileged kids Christmas shopping. Sounds all warm and fuzzy, but since when is it the role of police to take anyone shopping? If they want to do that on their own time, then it’s fine with me, but it doesn’t sound like anything resembling law-enforcement work.
Let’s go straight to a case of police abusing civil asset forfeiture laws. One of our Colorado residents won a big jackpot gambling in Nevada. He was pulled over by the Humboldt County Sheriff, Nevada. His crime was driving 78 in a 75 zone, hardly a reason to intimidate a traveler into a search.
The search produced $50,000 in cash and the Sheriff’s Deputy just took it. He told the motorist he could leave the scene with his car or the cash, but he wasn’t leaving with both. The outrage of this highway robbery by law enforcement was under the guise of civil asset forfeiture. The police became judge, jury and executioner under this perverted color of law.
Would you like more examples of abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws on every day people?
How about the case of a Detroit grocery store that was only insured for up to $10,000 if they were robbed? So they always made cash deposits under that amount. The IRS accused them of money laundering and seized everything they had before there was any due process and virtually put them out of business with civil asset forfeiture based on suspicion. Their bust put 28 people out of work. The store had to prove its money was “innocent.”
This perversion of law results in bizarre court proceedings such as IRS vs. $108,000, or City of Detroit vs. 2007 Cadillac Escalade. There was an art gallery that hosted a party without a liquor license. Instead of busting the owner, the police towed 100 cars from party-goers using civil asset forfeiture as they were held like prisoners and ransomed them for $900 a piece or prove their cars were “innocent” of the liquor license offense.
In Philadelphia, they confiscate real estate every day using civil asset forfeiture. A kid was busted for selling 40 bucks worth of heroin at his parents’ house. The city confiscated the family home using what? Civil asset forfeiture.
Thompson tries to convince us that one of the wealthiest counties in Colorado would have no bullet-proof vests if it wasn’t for civil asset forfeiture. Next thing he will tell us they wouldn’t have gasoline for squad cars without the criminal elements’ money to fund them. One police department in Massachusetts bought a Zamboni, one in Texas bought a margarita machine with asset confiscation.