Asset Forfeiture

One of the worst outcomes of the war on drugs has been civil forfeiture laws, which basically allow police to take your property and keep the proceeds, forcing the burden of proof onto you to prove that the property is not a result of or facilitator to criminal activity.  It is beyond me how such laws continue to be considered Constitutional, but the unfortunately the same justices that tend to protect property rights are the same one that seem to have an even stronger law and order streak.

Anyway, its good to be reminded just how awful these laws are, and Hit and Run has several recent examples here.

Update: Walter Olson has several more.

  • Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master

    From the Cato piece:
    Now imagine instead that it’s the police department as a whole that faces the same corrupting temptation. Why do the courts stand for it?

    Actually, this is why I've always been against police departments making anything above "expenses" (and it should be nominally somewhat less) from ANYTHING they do which involves force of law and regulation. Tickets would be the most obvious example of this.

    If cops can't justify sending officers out to write tickets without making lots of money for departmental goodies, then the community doesn't think those tickets are needful.

    Not saying they should not get ANY recompense, just that it should be at least marginally (and indisputably less than the ticket costs to produce, in time and capital used. but if a ticket only paid 75%, instead of 150% of the cost of putting an officer at the side of the road with car and a radar gun, how many "speed traps" do you think there'd be? How many fewer tickets would be written, how much lower would the court costs be to supervise and shepherd people through the legal system?

    "People would speed more"... actually, NO. The actual DOT guidelines for how speed limits are to be set are actually based on the notion that most drivers are able to properly decide, in the absence of unusual and non-visible circumstances (an elementary school two blocks off the main drag, say), without being told by a speed-limit sign what the proper speed is. In practice, they have a set of rules they apply which loosely mimics the mental process a driver unconsciously performs, but that's the actual principle behind how the speed limits are supposed to be set in a location -- by virtue of a traffic study which identified what speed drivers are going, and a limit set within a 5mph target located within the 20th and the 80th percentiles.

    HOWEVER, a 1990 Federal DOT report (no idea if it's been updated since then, but speed limits are still too low) showed that all across the nation, the speed limits were getting set between 10 and 15 mph BELOW what the target speed should have been.

    Why? More revenue for the city, with no downside -- they're writing tickets for defacto safe drivers.

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  • Not Sure

    “People would speed more”…

    If you want people to speed less, those cops hiding off the side of the road with their radar guns should be out driving the road instead.

    That they're not tells you all you need to know about what the police perceive their mission to be. Hint- it's not about protecting or serving.

  • me

    It's so good to hang out on a blog where people actually share my opinion about speed limit enforcement. Sometimes I do feel as if the human race, all in all, might just end up having a future after all.

  • Mark

    I agree on the asset forfeiture issue. The power of government to seize assets without a conviction can certainly be an abuse of power.

    At the same time, I believe that the fruits of illegal behavior (organized crime, drug trafficking) should be take away from convicted offenders. The legal system needs to create a method that will be able to recover these assets after the offender has been found guilty. This is a difficult task because in almost every case the person accuses has many opportunities to transfer, dispose of, or even hide these assets.

    SO, what is the right way of handling the situation? There certainly needs to be certain situations were the government can seize assets even before a person is convicted of a crime, just as the government can detain a person before they are convicted. There needs to be better oversight into these processes and a better method of appeal if your assets are seized.

  • John VI

    Mark, it would be a simple matter to put any assets seized into a trust of some kind, and then pursue legal action against the owner. Guilty people dont get their stuff back, innocent people do.

    The problem with this is that everyone in a position to make this a law, benefits from the current system.

    The issue is the fact that police are taking property away from people they know damn well wont be convicted of a crime, because they havent actually commited one that would enable the asset forfieture laws to kick in in the first place. Its Theft. The criminals know better than to own anything that can be taken away ( other than the cash they have on them ) and the citizens that get caught up in this scam are in no position to fight back.

    This needs to happen to an innocent gay teenager that goes on to kill himself over it in order for it to get the national coverage necessary to get it changed. Right now the liberal line is "If the police took your stuff, you did SOMETHING to deserve it" aka "If you are INNOCENT, you have nothing to HIDE" and you cant get out from under that suspicion.

  • eddy

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