"It is the death of humanity to know the price of everything but the value of nothing." ~Unknown

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Asset Forfeiture: Unconstitutional Property Theft by our Governments



Texas Sen. John Whitmire on Alex Jones Tv 1_2_Criminal Asset Forfeiture

A large and growing list of Americans -- now numbering in the hundreds of thousands -- who have been victimized by civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, everything you own can be legally taken away even if you are never convicted of a crime.

Donald P. Scott, age 61, owned and lived on a 200-acre property known as the Trails End Ranch, in the Ventura County portion of Malibu. California. On October 2, 1992, while serving a search warrant at the ranch, Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies shot Donald Scott, resulting in his death.

Asset Forfeiture: Unconstitutional Property Theft by our Governments

Asset Forfeiture:

Unconstitutional Property Theft by our Governments

By Leon Felkins

Written 1/25/1996

Revised 7/30/2001

"We believe the government’s conduct in forfeiture cases leaves much to be desired. We are certainly not the first to be ‘enormously troubled by the government’s increasing and virtually unchecked use of the civil forfeiture statutes and the disregard for due process that is buried in those statutes’" (Quoting Judge George Pratt in US v. All Assets of Statewide Auto Parts, Inc., 971 F.2d 896, 905 (2d Cir. 1992)). US v. $506,231 in U.S. Currency, 125 F.3d 442 (7th Cir. 1997)

The Forfeiture Business

Our once trusted government (maybe we were naive to do so) has now shown its true colors for all to see, apparently without the slightest shame. Some years ago, using the notorious Drug War as a pretext, the government started to quietly establish laws and procedures to allow them to seize the property of individuals without going through the legal processes that we thought were insured by our Constitution. They have since increased the severity of these laws with several legislative updates. You can read the details in the links to other sites I have provided below, but basically, what the government has decided that they can do is to prosecute your property rather than you. So, they say, you may be protected by the Constitution, but your property is not. The idea came for this from an ancient English Law that allowed the state to prosecute a bull and to dispose of the bull if it had harmed a person ("deodand"). From this simple beginning, our government has developed a multi-billion dollar operation of seizing the properties of private citizens.
Here are a few links and references to more information of the subject:

  • My essays on Forfeiture

  • On-line material and References

    • Here I have on-line copies of printable documents that you can print on your own printer in small quantities for hand-outs.
    • An outstanding summary of the whole government Forfeiture and Seizure business and its consequences is the essay at the FEAR site, "POLICING FOR PROFIT: THE DRUG WAR'S HIDDEN ECONOMIC AGENDA", by Eric Blumenson & Eva Nilsen. This is book size (72 pages on my printer!) and includes the most comprehensive bibliography that I have seen.
    • A fairly thorough online manual about Forfeiture and what to do if you are a victim is called, "THE ASSET FORFEITURE MANUAL".
    • Charles Miller has generously allowed me to post the on-line version of his book, U.S. v. Grandma here. The book is a fascinating and detailed personal account of government asset forfeiture gone bad. I have also posted a copy of his testimony to Congress about this disturbing program of the government.
    • Here is a nice summary of the government's obsession to steal private property: "Seizure Fever: The War on Property Rights", by James Bovard.
    • Be entertained while you are learning about the evils of government forfeiture! Read Dean Koontz's book,Dark Rivers of the Heart

    • A Government Document on the "How-To's" of Forfeiture.

      The U.S. Department of Justice document, "Civil Forfeiture: Tracing the Proceeds of Narcotics Trafficking" is available on the net. To me, this is a terrifying document. I will quote a segment for you to see if maybe it doesn't send a few chills down your back:

      "The Advantages of Civil Forfeiture"

      Although tracing is a complex process, prospects for successful forfeiture are eased considerably by the procedural benefits of civil process. The most obvious feature is the lower burden of proof confronting enforcement officials: proof by a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.(8) Furthermore, under federal law and some state legislation, the burden of proof is placed on the claimant rather than the government.(9) Thus, enforcement officials need not achieve certainty in their tracing efforts. They need only satisfy a relaxed standard of proof This is an advantage of enormous consequence, as many cases turn on the burden of proof. Moreover, even if criminal prosecution was precluded by operation of the exclusionary rule, civil forfeiture may still be possible. Although the exclusionary rule applies to forfeiture proceedings, tainted evidence may still be sufficient to meet the lower burden of proof.(10) Indeed, civil forfeiture may be a viable option despite an acquittal on criminal charges.(11)
      The civil context provides other advantages as well. For example, prosecutors may resort to the discovery process to obtain information pertinent to tracing.(12) The claimant may be deposed and disclosure of his records compelled. Perjury and contempt sanctions are potentially available against untruthful or recalcitrant witnesses. And, while the Fifth Amendment may still be asserted, a civil claimant risks an adverse factual finding by doing so.(13) This possibility places the claimant in a particular bind if criminal charges against him are still pending. Asserting the Fifth Amendment may result in an adverse factual determination, while answering questions may have incriminating consequences in the criminal proceedings.(14) And, regardless of whether criminal charges are pending, discovery is likely to provide useful information for impeachment if the claimant testifies at the forfeiture proceeding. Such testimony will often be necessary because, once the government's evidentiary burden has been sustained, failure to provide responsive proof will result in an adverse judgment.(15) Often times, however, such testimony proves counterproductive because it is presented in an evasive or inconsistent manner.
      A civil claimant is also required to establish his standing to contest the forfeiture. Frequently, legal title to property will be in someone's name other than the real party at interest. Most courts will not permit forfeitures to be contested by such so-called straw men. Thus, before the prosecution must present its proof, the claimant must establish his standing. Normally, this requires proof of dominion and control beyond mere legal title.(16) Federal law and some state statutes require that this be initially accomplished by filing a verified claim.(17) In addition, some United States Attorneys offices routinely make standing a central discovery issue.(18) Thus, civil claimants are by no means assured automatic access to the courtroom.
      For these reasons, the civil claimant is in a very difficult position relative to his posture in a criminal trial. Indeed, notwithstanding tracing obstacles confronting the government, many cases are uncontested by potential claimants or otherwise lost on standing grounds.(19) This means that, even when tracing obstacles exist, forfeiture proceedings should be considered since the government may never be put to its proof."
    • "Presumed Guilty", the Famous Pittsburgh Press Series on Forfeiture.
    • See my page on Volunteer Support for other links to resources.

  • Links to Sites that have Significant Material on Forfeiture

      "When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned; the flesh may not be eaten. The owners of the ox, however, shall go unpunished." Exodus 21:28

    • F.E.A.R.

      The most complete source for information on this subject is the F.E.A.R. site. The FEAR site has many links to other documents.

    • The MAP (Media Awareness Project)

      This site has an excellent compilation of Forfeiture news articles and is an outstanding source of current news on forfeiture.

    • The CATO Institute

      The CATO Institute has some material on this subject including books for sale. Of particular interest is the book by Representative Hyde on Forfeiture, Forfeiting Our Property Rights. The book is only $10.95 in paper back. An introduction to Representative Hyde's book is here.

Why Should I care about government confiscations, I'm not a Criminal?

"[T]o live outside the law, you must be honest," -- Bob Dylan
The question posed in the heading is a very upsetting question but one that I have heard from several people. I once posted some information about government seizure of property to one of the newsgroups (alt.government.abuse). The first response was from one of our fine citizens who said something to the effect, "Hey, if you are not a criminal, then you don't have anything to worry about". Which, of course, is not true. Even if the original intent was justified -- which it was not -- government always expands the scope of any law far beyond the original intentions. Look at how they have managed to get involved in every aspect of our normal lives from a simple statement about interstate commerce in the Constitution! They have already expanded the scope of seizure from drug related crimes to essentially any crime. How would you like to have your new car seized because your license had expired? It could happen.
In fact this statement reminds me of what the good citizens in Germany said just before World War II when Jews were being harassed. "Hey, if you are not a Jew, you have nothing to worry about." Right.

Which Party will Protect our Constitutional Rights?

Neither (at least, neither of the two major parties)! There has been a string of private property seizure laws passed since 1970. Some of these forfeiture laws were passed when the Republicans were in the Presidency and the Democrats were in control of Congress. Some were passed when a Democrat was president and Republicans held the congress. The fact is, there is little interest by either party in restoring our rights or in complying with the Constitution.
And why is this so? For one reason, because they are fulfilling the desires of the citizens! That's right, apparently the citizens are quite willing to give up constitutional guarantees to fight the so-called Drug War. A poll taken in 1995 found that over half of the citizens were willing to go along with this stupid idea. Another reason, of course, is that forfeiture provides a very substantial source of income for police at both the federal and local level. And of course, there's the control thing. Politicians and police are control freaks of the first order. Even when it is not profitable, they are obsessed with control of the citizens.
Check the links I have provided above for the details of the looting and how the proceeds are consumed.

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