CRIMINAL ASSET FORFEITURE

 

Last night I came across a recent report generated by the US Inspector General documenting the controversial policy of “civil asset seizure.” The conclusions, though unsurprising to me, should outrage ordinary American’s. Do most people even realize the power our government has to legally forfeit anyone’s property, should the agency –DEA, FBI, DOJ, Local Sheriff, etc– have reason to suspect the owner be a part to a crime? I can say that most of the people I’ve discussed the issue with hardly believe such practices are lawful, let alone common.

Here are some of the statistics found within the IG report: DEA has seized since 2008 over 4 billion in cash, not including cars, electronics, property, homes, clothing, etc. 81% of the cash was seized despite no civil or criminal charges ever being filed. Since 2007 the Department of Justice criminal seizure fund has ballooned to more than 28 billion in cash, 5 billion of which was stolen taken in 2014 alone. 

Summarizing the findings, the IG makes a strong case for patterns of clear misuse and abuse stating, “a perverse profit motive is at play.” Essentially the program funds the budgets of many entities, providing overtime, even high end electronics and sports cars reportedly allocated for “investigatory purposes.” 

My interest stems from an incident that occurred traveling with my uncle in western Texas in 2010. Stopped at a checkpoint run by the local Sheriff, we were removed from the vehicle and separated for questioning without any probable cause. The Mexican border was about 60 miles west and we were not coming from, or traveling to Mexico. Not that it matters.

The truth was, as tourists from California visiting a friend in the area, we were simply fish caught in their “lawful” net. I was asked where we were headed and where we came from, my uncles name and address, about the two firearms in the vehicle and “where” the narcotics were. After affirming my uncles name, I refused to answer further questions without legal representation. Over the course of the following two hours I was threatened with arrest and my uncle’s supposed confessions. Even as a former soldier, the ordeal was frightening. In my mind I kept telling myself, “stay firm, keep story straight and eventually I will be released.” 

After two hours we were released. But not without consequence. They had seized my uncle’s two firearms and $2,300 in cash, implying we were drug mules. It took my family 4 years to retrieve the property and cash, but only after spending $3,500 on legal fees, plus two more trips to the Sheriff’s facility. It almost defy’s believe that this can happening America, it’s outrageous that it is not uncommon. 

It made no difference that we were both veteran’s or that we had no criminal records. It made no difference that we knew the neighboring county judge, that we were white or that we told the truth. Truth is, it shouldn’t matter had those things not been true. The government taking peoples property for any reason is wrong and shortsighted. The people stealing from the people. What does matter is that there seems to be a large group of people in our country that can justify this behavior perpetrated upon fellow countrymen and women. Who are the real criminals? Yes, I’ll say it: these fuckers hiding behind nefarious laws and dime store badges are far worse than most criminals. At least regular criminals don’t pretend to be Range Rover driving Robin Hood’s.  

There is a limit to what “the people” will take from their government before changes are necessary by any means. Maybe reports like this are the answer? Maybe not? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quit Knee-Jerking us Around @realDonaldTrump #flagburning

Eating breakfast this morning I happened to catch a report on CNN about some University in Massachusetts where a group of students had burned an American flag in response to the election of Donald Trump. It wasn’t clear -or I missed- whether more than a single flag had been destroyed, or several. My immediate reaction was “big deal, who cares?” And then the story progressed….

The local Mayor city was interviewed. His opinion was something like, and I am paraphrasing: many veteran’s attend this college and this act was tantamount to treason. That it was totally disrespecting their sacrifice….blah-babaty-blah-blah. It wasn’t clear if the Mayor is a veteran himself though, nevertheless, as I see it, in this case, it makes zero difference.

And of course -disturbingly- our Prez-Elect Trump already tweeted about the situation. Something like: people who burn the flag should go to prison, or, lose their citizenship? Yikes! Albeit, most of what Trump says erupts from a sense complete ignorance, in my humble opinion, as it were. Tomorrow he might completely reverse this position -after speaking to some attorney he respects- similar to his about-face on torture….or not, who fucking knows? Point being, a POTUS so utterly reactionary, one prone to such knee-jerk impulse, will be -and is- unprecedented, in modern times.

Okay. many veteran’s might believe burning the flag is disrespectful, sure. That does not mean it is, or should be illegal. Especially since the very 1st amendment in the Bill of Rights, in the US Constitution, grants all men -women too, much later- the right of free speech, including the right to peacefully protest the government ones grievances.

And what could be more peaceful than burning some fabric on the sidewalk, or a college square, as it were? Disrespectful does not reach the criminal level of injurious or illegal. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this very thing, indemnifying the act as legal and protected under the 1st, 5th, & 13th amendment’s of the Constitution…the United States Constitution…to include ignorant kids that may wear pleather sandals and live in mom’s basement.

Donald Trump’s reactionary positions actually leads me to worry less about his ability to become a true tyrant. He’s not intelligent or cunning enough to cause wide-spread lasting damage. Yes, I could be wrong? So what? What should be feared more are the true lunatics out there suddenly feeling empowered to act out in destructive, truly abhorrent ways.