Civil Asset Forfeiture
The Mark of a Totalitarian State
Civil Asset Forfeiture in the U.S.A.Along with the ‘War on Drugs’ has arisen a predatory state whose agencies no longer recognize property rights (ironic in a country supposedly based on a respect for the sanctity of private property). No property owner in the U.S. (or in any other country which models its laws on those of the U.S., such as Australia and New Zealand) can any longer feel secure about continued ownership of their property. Once the police and other state "authorities" discover that they can take possession of people's property by framing them on a charge of some criminal activity or other which involved the desired property then there's no stopping them from taking whatever they fancy.
- Civil Asset Forfeiture — the end of the rule of law Legal theft in America.
- The Introduction to Brenda Grantland's Your House is Under Arrest
You may say this could never happen in America because the U.S. Constitution protects you. There you are wrong, because it is happening in the U.S. — at an alarmingly increasing pace.
- Seizure Fever: The War on Property Rights
- The Dangerous Expansion of Forfeiture Laws
- Asset-Forfeiture: How the Government Steals
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reform of federal and state asset forfeiture laws to restore due process and protect property rights in the forfeiture process.
- Washington Post (2014-09-06): Stop and seize — Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes.
[Since 9/11] the spread of an aggressive brand of policing ... has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes ... Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back. Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country. ...
Cash seizures can be made under state or federal civil law. One of the primary ways police departments are able to seize money and share in the proceeds at the federal level is through a long-standing Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program known as Equitable Sharing. Asset forfeiture is an extraordinarily powerful law enforcement tool that allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired. ...
The number of agencies participating yearly under Equitable Sharing went up 22 percent to 2,842 between 2003 and 2007, while cash seizures without search warrants or indictments during that period rose more than 50 percent, to $242 million. Under the Obama administration, police have made more than 22,000 such seizures worth about $1 billion through the Justice Department program.
- The Daily Sheeple (2015-01-19): Justice Department Ends Participation in Civil Asset Forfeiture Program — but not the states
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that state and local officials would no longer be allowed to use federal law to seize private property such as cash or cars without evidence that a crime was committed. ... Politicians and activists across the political spectrum agree that Holder’s actions are a step in the right direction, but they aren’t quite enough. That’s because state asset forfeiture programs still remain.
- Zero Hedge (2015-09-15): How The Justice Department Is Actively Preventing Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
- Zero Hedge (2017-03-20): Stealing From The Citizenry: How Government Goons Use Civil Asset Forfeiture To Rob Us Blind
- Zero Hedge (2017-04-06) Is Your "Democracy" Actually a Totalitarian State? Take This Quick Quiz
- When it Comes to Civil Forfeiture in Texas, You Have No Property Rights
- The Drug War is State-Sanctioned Theft
One of the biggest lies our [U.S.] government tells us is that it wages the War on Drugs to keep us safe. More than 40 years after it was started, we know that it has been a colossally-expensive epic failure on its stated goals, was intentionally designed to further disenfranchise marginalized groups, and has become a full-fledged assault on our civil liberties.
Civil Asset Forfeiture in AustraliaThe government of Australia normally adopts policies of the U.S. after several years have shown those policies to be harmful. So it is with the passage (in September 2002) of federal legislation replicating America's civil asset forfeiture laws. This legislation went into effect on 2003-01-01 and thereafter a person's assets could be seized by the state if "a preponderance of evidence" (in contrast to "beyond a reasonable doubt") suggests that those assets were acquired sometime during the previous six years as a result of criminal activity. No criminal conviction is necessary. There is no trial. From 2003 an Australian's house, car or any other item of property could be seized if a judge could be persuaded by the police to rule that there is evidence (however disputable) that that property was connected to some criminal activity (not necessarily criminal activity by the owner of the property). Of course, most Australians don't even know that this legislation was ever under consideration, still less that it was passed. As in America, most Australians will only hear about this legal theft by their government after it becomes a national scandal (if it ever does), by which time, of course, it will be too late to do anything about it. There is, however, always the option of emigration to a country which respects basic freedoms and property rights.
CNN (2002-09-24): Australia to seize crime assets on suspicion
Australian courts will soon be able to seize the assets of people they reasonably believe to have profited from crime, even if the suspects have not yet been convicted. ... The crime bill ... puts the onus on criminal suspects to prove their assets and property were lawfully derived or face seizure by the authorities.
What probably happened is that some in the Australian government saw how easy it had become for police in the U.S. to sieze whatever property they wanted by framing "suspects" and felt that this would work just as well in Australia. The politicians in power were persuaded (how, one wonders) to pass the necessary legislation.
One of the basic principles of a free society is that a citizen is not treated as guilty of an alleged crime until a court (in serious cases, a trial by jury) has considered the evidence and has established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. With this legislation the Australian government has breached this principle and is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (Article 11)
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. (Article 17)
In Australia such basic human rights are no longer respected by the government. Australia has gone the way of the United States, in a very dark direction. Evil now stalks the land.
Creeping Authoritarianism in Australia
- Mike Head (WSWS, 2016-03-18): Anti-protest laws attack democratic rights in AustraliaThe laws impose draconian punishments and boost police powers that can be used to suppress opposition, including industrial action by workers ... These laws blatantly attack fundamental democratic rights, including free speech, free movement and freedom to associate. ...
The Tasmanian laws are even more explicit in targeting basic democratic rights. A protestor is defined as someone who engages in an activity “for the purposes of promoting awareness of or support for an opinion, or belief, in respect of a political, environmental, social, cultural or economic issue.” ... The Western Australian legislation overturns another democratic right — the onus on the police to prove guilt.
- Mike Head (WSWS, 2016-05-12): Australian state government imposes draconian “public safety” lawsFor the second time in two months, extraordinary laws that can be used to shut down political protests and punish dissent have been pushed through the parliament of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), giving the police far-reaching repressive powers ... allow[ing] police officers to issue sweeping “crime prevention” and “public safety” orders — including forms of house arrest for up to five years — without a charge, trial, or conviction. ...
As the WSWS has repeatedly warned, the ever-expanding terrorism legislation introduced since 2001 is being used to establish an authoritarian framework, aimed at targeting not just a relative handful of alleged Islamic extremists, but at suppressing the inevitable social struggles that will emerge against the drive to war and austerity.
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