I want to take a moment to talk about Civil Forfeiture Laws.
These laws are a shameful representation of a failed justice system where money has undue influence and victimizes the poor as a matter of indifferent policy.
First let me explain what these forfeiture laws do:
Civil Forfeiture laws came about so that the authorities (police) can seize your property that they allege is involved in a crime. What this should mean is that if you are arrested in the suspected act of a crime the police can seize your car, your money, and whatever assets might be available.
That sounds reasonable on the surface, right? If you use something to commit a crime then you should be subject to losing it and having it seized by the government. The government can then use the resources to better its police departments.
So here are the problems:
1) The Police do not have to have reasonable cause to seize your assets
2) The Police do not have to charge you with a crime to seize your assets
3) Fighting to get your assets returned is costly and a significant barrier
4) There is no oversight on what the police use these funds for and it serves as a ‘slush’ fund for police expenditures and thus this encourages the police (who use these funds to make their lives better) to have corrupt practices concerning Civil Forfeiture
Here are a few stories you can read about Civil Forfeiture:
What is being done?
Some states are taking action. Montana and New Mexico are about to require a criminal conviction in order to enforce Civil Forfeiture. The ACLU in Arizona just challenged the law and is headed to court in Arizona. There is a lot of real positive movement towards ending Civil Forfeiture.
But how can this impact me or those I love?
Let’s say you are going out of state to buy a car. You have taken a few thousand dollars cash. Or let’s say you are on vacation and you have money to pay for it and set aside. If you drive into a place that actively practices Civil Forfeiture you can be stopped by police. If they see you with a large amount of money they can seize that from you under the threat of arrest. To avoid being arrested you turn the money over and you proceed along your way.
Getting that money back is costly and difficult and the attorney and court fees can surpass the gain of getting back what is yours.
Worst of all? You don’t even have to be charged with a crime. And suspicion is such a loose definition that the latitude that police have to add to their slush funds is sickening. If you are poor this could derail your life. And most of us are living check to check. It can have devastating consequences on you and your family.
What can you do?
Write your Senator:
Write your Congressman:
I urge you to take some action. Right is right. And the police shouldn’t be able to seize your property without charging you with an actual crime. Current Civil Forfeiture law punishes those in positions of need and it hurts the people of this country. I implore you to take action because this issue is on the cusp of finding justice in the Courts and in our Government. And your voice can lend itself to actual and positive change in regards to these laws.