Civil Asset Forfeiture: Out of Control
Threats to liberty normally come from leftists. An exception is civil asset forfeiture, a brazen violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections against seizure without due process. It has been favored by figures associated with both the Left and the Right (e.g., Kamala Harris and Jeff Sessions). Moonbattery.com sponsor Ammo.com provides an informative introduction to the topic.
Like the militarization of police, asset forfeiture flourishes when statism gets out of control, specifically during Prohibition and the War on Drugs.
Civil is far more alarming that criminal asset forfeiture, because in most states it does not require the same standard of proof; instead of the government being required to prove you guilty, you may have to prove yourself innocent to get your property back. Unlike accused criminals, victims of civil asset forfeiture are not entitled to legal counsel. The legal expense is extravagant.
The situation began to get out of control with the 1996 Bennis v Michigan ruling, in which the Supremes decreed that the owner being innocent was not sufficient grounds to recover assets.
The amount of wealth confiscated is astronomical:
[I]n 2014, the total amount of civil asset forfeiture seizures in the United States was $4.5 billion. The total value of property stolen in burglaries was $3.9 billion.
An emphasis on seizing assets rather than keeping the peace or even enforcing the law has perverted traffic stops into shakedown operations. Officers can lose their jobs if they fail to bring in enough loot. Busts are delayed to increase forfeiture jackpots.
The victims are not necessarily criminals:
In 85 percent of all cases, no one is ever charged with a crime, though many people are pressured into signing away their right to a defense in exchange for a guarantee against criminal prosecution.
The loot acquired has been spent on salaries, equipment, and all many of other things, including sports tickets, office parties, home security systems, a “party house,” a $90,000 sports car, first-class flights, Cadillac rentals, lip-sync videos, a $500 popcorn machine, a margarita machine, $400 in catering, drugs, prostitutes, a tanning salon, casino trips, candy for a poultry festival, a $637 coffee maker, $225 on a clown, $9,547 worth of Gatorade, a Zamboni, and television sets.
Where state laws put a damper on the fun, equitable sharing is employed to bring in the Feds. Under this arrangement, federal agents kick back 80% of the haul to local authorities.
The Constitution was explicitly designed to defend us against this sort of creeping tyranny. The less we demand that authorities take the Constitution seriously, the more quickly it will advance. This is why tampering with the Constitution except through the amendment process is never acceptable. Ignoring amendments (as states like New York and California do to the Second) and inventing constitutional rights that do not exist (abortion, homosexual marriage) undermine the entire document and allow outrages like civil asset forfeiture to flourish.