Thursday, June 20, 2024
WOODLAND, Calif. – The U.S. Marshals Asset Forfeiture Division held a live/online auction in Woodland, California, Oct. 26, 2019, for 148 classic, luxury and performance vehicles from a federal civil case involving the owners of the defunct DC Solar company in the Eastern District of California. Total sales came to $8.233 million, with the highest lot, #236, a 2018 Prevost motor coach, selling for $1,051,225. Photo By: Shane T. McCoy / US Marshals

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE: U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Baffles Many

The many nuances of America’s civil asset forfeiture laws are bewildering.

The government, as we know, may not continue to jail someone without giving him or her a preliminary hearing.

Law enforcement seizes the accused’s property.

Why doesn’t the government provide the same kinds of due process to the accused when it comes to the accused’s belongings?

That’s a question that the U.S. Supreme Court heard recently and ruled upon this month.

The court ruled that when the government confiscates an automobile under civil asset forfeiture laws it then owes the owner a timely hearing (emphasis on the word “timely”).

That’s good…right?

Timely does not necessarily mean prompt or speedy. A preliminary hearing, though, would make things prompt and speedy.

The court ruled that the government does not have to hold a preliminary hearing to decide whether it can keep the automobile. 

“It’s an unfortunate decision for citizens who face a constant threat of property seizure under an antiquated and unjustifiable forfeiture scheme that has been systematically abused in many states,” according to a statement from the Phoenix, Ariz.-based Goldwater Institute.

“The silver lining, however, is that several justices expressed discomfort with the whole notion of forfeiture, and expressed hope that a future lawsuit might curtail its abuse.”

The case in question involved two automobile owners. Their cars were confiscated. Police suspected the owners involved themselves in the drug world.

“The absurd fiction of today’s forfeiture laws holds that inanimate objects can be tainted by their involvement in a crime and can therefore be seized by police and prosecutors without giving owners the type of legal protections that they would be accorded if they themselves were accused of criminal acts,” the Goldwater Institute said.

“And because law enforcement is allowed to keep the proceeds of these seizures, the result has been termed ‘policing for profit.’ The law enforcement community can fund its operations from these seizures, rather than from tax dollars—which renders them less accountable to voters, and more likely to abuse their authority for financial gain, rather than actually fighting crime.”

The Arlington, VA-based Institute for Justice (IJ) called civil asset forfeiture “one of the gravest abuses of power in the country today.”

The Lenawee County, Michigan Daily Telegram reported that federal law enforcement agencies may seize the assets of people or businesses charged with committing certain crimes. This, before they are convicted or even charged.

The Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, meanwhile, said nearly all states and the feds “require far less evidence than the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard for criminal convictions.”

In recent years, 37 states have reformed their civil asset forfeiture laws, while New Mexico, Nebraska, Maine and North Carolina have abolished the practice altogether, said the Washington, D.C-based Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

Special thanks to Warhammer’s Wife proofreading this story before publication to make certain there were no misspellings, grammatical errors or other embarrassing mistakes and/or typos. Follow Warhammer on Twitter @Real_Warhammer. Also follow Warhammer on TruthSocial at @Real_Warhammer