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?