US: Conservatives Now Denounce Forfeiture Laws They Created

http://www.newsmax.com/GeorgeWill/Asset-Forfeiture-Laws-Tewksbury/2012/05/21/id/439740

Conservatives welcomed forfeiture laws as a means to impose social rules such as drug use…but now are complaining they’ve created a self-serving nightmare of arbitray rules. The concept reaches back to medieval laws favored by the Inquisition and attack real law on many levels–lack of accountable serach and seizures, confiscations, excessive fines and response. Libertarians were the first to raise the alarm but despite several media denunciations going back to the mid-90’s it continues….but analyses by conservative writers such as this one show the information campaign is spreading.

People are denied due process in forfeits that then typically end up enriching local police in accountable grants. It in effect legalizes police and judicial corruption and is typically employed against social pariahs, dissidents, and small businesspeople in the way of those with connections such as this one.

Govt Abuses Asset Forfeiture Laws

 

Monday, 21 May 2012 11:05 AM

By George Will

 
 

Russ Caswell, 68, is bewildered: “What country are we in?” He and his wife Pat are ensnared in a Kafkaesque nightmare unfolding in Orwellian language.

This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law — which is less permissive than federal law — in order to seize his livelihood and retirement asset.

In the lawsuit titled “United States of America vs. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts,” the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million, and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million.

The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. They are being persecuted by two governments eager to profit from what is antiseptically called the “equitable sharing” of the fruits of civil forfeiture, a process of government enrichment that often is indistinguishable from robbery.

The Merrimack River Valley near the New Hampshire border has had more downs than ups since the 19th century, when the nearby towns of Lowell and Lawrence were centers of America’s textile industry. In the 1960s the area briefly enjoyed a high-tech boom.

Caswell’s “budget” motel, too, has seen better days, as when the touring Annette Funicello and the Mouseketeers checked in. In its sixth decade the motel hosts tourists, some workers on extended stays and some elderly people who call it home. The 56 rooms rent for $56 a night or $285 a week.

Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug-dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate — the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate — these 30 episodes involved less than five one-hundredths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days. Yet this is the government’s excuse for impoverishing the Caswells by seizing this property, which is their only significant source of income and all of their retirement security.

The government says the rooms were used to “facilitate” a crime. It does not say the Caswells knew or even that they were supposed to know what was going on in all their rooms all the time.

Civil forfeiture law treats citizens worse than criminals, requiring them to prove their innocence — to prove they did everything possible to prevent those rare crimes from occurring in a few of those rooms. What counts as possible remains vague. The Caswells voluntarily installed security cameras, they photocopy customers’ identifications and record their license plates, and turn the information over to the police, who have never asked the Caswells to do more.

The Caswells are represented by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm. IJ explains that civil forfeiture is a proceeding in which property is said to have acted wrongly. This was useful long ago against pirates, who might be out of reach but whose ill-gotten gains could be seized. The Caswells, however, are not pirates.

Rather, they are victims of two piratical governments that, IJ argues, are violating the U.S. Constitution twice. They are violating the Eighth Amendment, which has been construed to forbid “excessive fines” that deprive individuals of their livelihoods.

And the federal “equitable sharing” program violates the 10th Amendment by vitiating state law, thereby enabling Congress to compel the states to adopt Congress’ policies where states possess a reserved power and primary authority — in the definition and enforcement of the criminal law.

A federal drug agent operating in this region roots around in public records in search of targets — property with at least $50,000 equity. Caswell thinks that if his motel “had a big mortgage, this would not be happening.”

“Equitable sharing” — the consensual splitting of ill-gotten loot by the looters — reeks of the moral hazard that exists in situations in which incentives are for perverse behavior. To see where this leads, read IJ’s scalding report “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” (http://ow.ly/aYME1), a sickening litany of law enforcement agencies padding their budgets and financing boondoggles by, for example, smelling, or imagining to smell, or pretending to smell, marijuana in cars they covet.

None of this is surprising to Madisonians, which all sensible Americans are. James Madison warned (in Federalist 48) that government power “is of an encroaching nature.” If unresisted, it produces iniquitous sharing of other people’s property.

George F. Will is one of today’s most recognized writers, with more than 450 newspapers, a Newsweek column, and his appearances as a political commentator on ABC. Read more reports from George Will

Read more on Newsmax.com: Govt Abuses Asset Forfeiture Laws
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama’s Re-Election? Vote Here Now!

Advertisements

One comment

  1. U.S. Forfeiture Squads Are Out of Congtrol

    Like a spreading plague, media reports of Police using Civil Asset Forfeiture to seize property from innocent owners is frightening off buyers of motels, bars, restaurants; residential rental property. Investors and property owners increasingly believe they are sitting ducks for police to confiscate their property. Many investors note the recent publicized civil forfeiture of Motel Caswell by Federal & Local Law Enforcement Agencies from the Caswell family that owned and operated the motel for two generations. The Caswells cooperated with police to abate infrequent drug problems at their motel caused by guests. The family Motel was free and clear and perhaps provided a target for police forfeiture. See: “United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass.”

    Bars, restaurant and rental property owners Increasingly fear police; strongly believe police can make it a point—to shut down or seize any bar, restaurant, motel or residential rental by arresting a customer or tenant unbeknownst to the owner—possessing or distributing drugs; or believe undercover police / informants can steer drug sales or buys onto their property or business to forfeit it. Some owners of bars, restaurants and rental property become police informants, report on their customers—in the erroneous belief police won’t target their business or property. Government civil asset forfeiture requires only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay. No one need be charged with a crime. Corrupt Police can even create the hearsay. If police civil forfeiture abuse is not brought under control it is foreseeable many Americans will be afraid to own real and personal property that comes in contact with the public.

    It is understandable more business and rental property owners fear police. Almost every week there are news reports of police, including high-ranking police and sheriffs being arrested for selling drugs, robbing, extorting or protecting drug dealers, planting evidence; filing false reports to send innocent persons to prison.

    Next: Police Drones—Recording Conversations In Your Home & Business To Forfeit Property?

    Police are salivating at the prospect of having drones to spy on lawful citizens. Congress approved 30,000 drones in U.S. Skies. That amounts to 600 drones for every state.

    It is problematic local police will want to use drones to record without warrants, personal conversations inside Americans’ homes and businesses: Consider the House just passed CISPA the recent Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. If passed by the Senate, CISPA will allow——the military and NSA spy agency (warrant-less spying) on Americans’ private Internet electronic Communications by using so-called (Government certified self-protected cyber entities” that may share with NSA your private Internet activity, e.g. emails, faxes, phone calls and confidential transmitted files they believe might relate to a cyber threat or crime—circumventing the Fourth Amendment—with full immunity from lawsuits if done in good faith. CISPA does not clearly define what is an element or self-protected cyber entity, that could broadly mean anything, e.g. a private computer, local or national network, website, an online service.

    Despite some cities and counties banning and restricting police using drones to invade citizens’ privacy, local police have a strong financial incentive to call in Federal Drones, (Civil Asset forfeiture sharing) that can result from drone surveillance). Should (no-warrant drone surveillance evidence) be allowed in courts circumventing the Fourth Amendment, for example (drones’ recording conversations in private homes and businesses, expect U.S. Federal and local police civil asset property forfeitures to escalate. Civil asset forfeiture requires only a preponderance of civil evidence for federal government to forfeit property, little more than hearsay: any conversation picked up by a drone inside a home or business, police can take out of context to institute arrests; or civil asset forfeiture to confiscate the home/business and other assets. Local police now circumvent state laws that require someone be convicted before police can civilly forfeit their property—by turning their investigation over to the Federal Government that can rebate to the referring local police department 80% of assets forfeited. There are more than 350 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture that have nothing to do with illegal drugs.

    Consider: if CISPA is passed by Congress it will provide Government, police and government contractors (without warrants) the incentive (to take out of context) any innocent—hastily written email, fax or other Internet activity to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, assess fines and or civilly forfeit a business or property. U.S. Government can use CISPA to (certify any employee) including employees that work for a Government certified cyber self-protected entity—opening the door for certified employees to spy on their employers and clients. U.S. Government is not prohibited from paying any person including Government Certified Self Protected Cyber Entities, Elements or Certified Employees part of government forfeited assets or other compensation that result from the aforementioned providing U.S. Government a corporation’s confidential information or clients’ private information—that otherwise would require a warrant. U.S. Government currently contracts on a fee/commission basis with Self Protected Cyber Entities, Elements and Contractors that have security clearances to participate in facilitating arrests and Government asset forfeitures.

    Currently U.S. Government can’t use evidence obtained through illegal Internet searches of e.g. private emails and transmitted files without a warrant, however that will change if CISPA or a similar bill is passed by Congress. Since CISPA, two additional cyber-security bills have been created in the Senate called, “The Cyber Security Act of 2012” and “SECURE IT Act”. Both bills appear unconstitutional; appear designed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment. The Cyber security Act of 2012 formally known as S. 2105 was created by Senate Democrats, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins. Similar to CISPA, the Cyber security Act of 2012 would abolish legal walls that stop Federal government and private companies sharing information.

    The SECURE IT Act: S. 2151 was introduced by Senate Republicans on March 1st 2012: would require federal contractors to alert government about any cyber threats, forcing such communications between government regulators and corporations. The SECURE IT Act authorizes sharing of persons’ private Internet information (without a warrant) going beyond what is necessary to describe a believed cyber threat. SECURE Act fails to create a regulatory system at the Federal level to oversee cyber-security threats opening the door for a person or businesses’ confidential information to be misused and misappropriated by government agencies and private cyber entities.

    U.S.Government should be prohibited from using independent contractors, created non-profit organizations and so-call (certified self protected cyber entities) to circumvent the Fourth Amendment. Corrupt police, U.S. Government Agencies and Government Contractors may too easily use private Internet transmissions, emails and transmitted files it is free to collect without a warrant to extort corporations, politicians and Citizens; or sell confidential information gleaned from warrant-less Internet Surveillance. Confidential Information in corrupt hands can be worth more than illegal drugs.

Share What You're Doing On This!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: