Seemingly Unconstitutional Laws - The Civil Asset Forfeiture Episode


NOTE: Whether this issue is Constitutional or not, this article contains information important to every family - especially to adults and teens. Knowledge of this can possibly prevent a major negative event befalling your family.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is a legal maneuver that allows law enforcement officials to seize property - even property not owned by the person involved - that the "police" assert, or just even suspect, has been involved in criminal activity - misdemeanor through felony - whether an actual crime has been committed or NOT!

Just for reference here are the 4th & 5th Amendments to the US Constitution with relevant portions highlighted and underlined:

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Before continuing, let's look at a few examples of Civil Asset Forfeiture in action:

Even though they didn’t charge her with a crime, Georgia police took (and kept) $11,530 from Alda Gentile at a regular traffic stop. They searched the car for drugs but found none. Gentile said she had the money for a house hunting trip to Florida. - from the Associated Press

A New Jersey man’s stash of cash was taken by an officer when he traveled through Monterey, Tenn. George Reby had $22,000 cash in his car when he was stopped by a police officer. The officer took the money because he suspected it was drug money. However, the man said he was going to use the money to buy a car, for which he had active bids on Ebay, something he was able to prove on his computer. When the officer wrote up the report, he failed to mention Reby’s claim that he was going to buy a car. - a local NJ Channel 5 news report

In Tenaha, Texas, a woman with her kids in the car was looking to buy a car and had the necessary cash in her car. She was stopped for a "made up charge" of driving in the left lane too long. The police seized all of her cash. The county's DA offered that she could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case she would go to jail and her children would be handed over to foster care. Or, she could sign over the cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. - from The New Yorker

A deputy for the Humboldt County’s Sheriff Office in rural Nevada has been accused of confiscating over $60,000 from drivers who were never charged with a crime. These cash seizures are now the subject of two federal lawsuits and are the latest to spotlight a little-known police practice called civil forfeiture. - from Forbes

In Detroit, cops seized over a hundred cars owned by patrons of an art institute event because the institute had failed to get a liquor license. The patrons finally got their cars back but had to pay $900 per car in "fees". - from the ACLU

Think this kind of thing can't or doesn't happen near you? Think again! Below is a map of all the States with a rating for each State re: this type of "lawful" abuse. States colored in GREEN indicate least risk of this happening; DARK RED indicates high risk. Click on the map to learn more.

Abuses via "Civil Asset Forfeiture" appear to be clear and blatant violations of both the 4th & 5th Amendments. This type of law was created to help thwart the drug trade. But, it is being applied way beyond any reasonable focus on trafficking in drugs. The Federal Government had somewhat backed away from this onerous undertaking under former AG, E. Holder. However, under the new AG, L. Lynch, a step backwards may be in the offing. Only time will tell. Aside from the federal government, apparently, some States view this practice as nothing more than a revenue source.

Just for grins, when finished reading this do a Google search or YouTube search on "Civil Asset Forfeiture abuses" and compare what you find against the 4th & 5th Amendments.

Here are a few YouTube offerings to get you started:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

One has to wonder how this type of abuse of our constitutional rights is allowed to happen and to continue to happen.

And, yes, many persons affected by this have brought suits against the municipalities for their property and/or money to be returned; some have been successful; such was the case of the Detroit Art Institute incident. However, such suits cost money and time and are not always successful.