A Nation of “Criminals”

The WSJ has been on a tear lately, looking at a variety of issues in law enforcement. Yeah, I know … they’re a Murdoch paper and only care about rich white people.

Uh-huh:

New York businessman James Lieto was an innocent bystander in a fraud investigation last year. Federal agents seized $392,000 of his cash anyway.

An armored-car firm hired by Mr. Lieto to carry money for his check-cashing company got ensnared in the FBI probe. Agents seized about $19 million—including Mr. Lieto’s money—from vaults belonging to the armored-car firm’s parent company.

He is one among thousands of Americans in recent decades who have had a jarring introduction to the federal system of asset seizure. Some 400 federal statutes—a near-doubling, by one count, since the 1990s—empower the government to take assets from convicted criminals as well as people never charged with a crime.

Last year, forfeiture programs confiscated homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in five years, Justice Department statistics show.

Here is but one example, this one at the local level: a mayor is driving around in an SUV seized in a supposed pimp bust. Supposed because the owner of the SUV has yet to be convicted of anything. This is typical of forfeiture cases, which charge the property with a crime and require the owner to prove his innocence before returning it. And I’ll give you one guess as to what demographics these seizures hit hardest.

There was a time when asset forfeiture laws were justified: that time was the 18th century when authorities would seize smugglers’ ships because the owners of the ships lived in other countries. There is absolutely no reason that this archaic bullshit should still be practiced. But SCOTUS has consistently ruled in favor of this theft, even when an innocent person’s property is used for a crime (Bennis v. Michigan).

The last time our government did anything about this was ten years ago. And it was a Republican — Henry Hyde — who did it. There is zero chance that the “for the little guy” Democrats will, in any way, restrain the government’s power to seize people’s property. Not when they are getting such perverse pleasure out of arresting people and raiding factories because their guitars might have illegal wood in them.

At what point do we stop expecting mercy from our overlords and start demanding that they respect our liberty?

Comments are closed.

  1. hist_ed

    I think assets seizures are fine as long as they happen after a conviction and the assets are definatively proved to be the result of criminal profits.

    Otherwise nope.

    I just watched the first season of The Wire. For most of the season I was on the side of the cops. But in one episode they stop a guy who works for a cituy councilman and sieze a bunch of money (20k, maybe). They then essentially say “You can have it back if you can prove it is ok”. That was when the show cops lost me (my darling, very patient, long suffering, wife, who is a prosecutor, had a slightly different opinion on that).

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  2. Miguelito

    There is zero chance that the “for the little guy” Democrats will, in any way, restrain the government’s power to seize people’s property.

    Of course not. The side they came down on in the Kelo case shows how much they really care about people’s property rights.

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  3. CzarChasm

    Guys, the 4th Amendment was virtually repealed with the passage of the Patriot Act. If we want it back, along with all the rest of our rights that have been systematically stolen from us by both men and women in black robes and elected politicos in business attire, we’re going to have to do more than bitch and moan about it. They won’t give it back willingly. It will have to be taken just like it was the first time, which means to me that it’s gone forever because we’re not the Patriots of yesteryear. We’re soft, spoiled beyond redemption. Unless and until all three of the same “3-B’s” are on the table, the soap box, ballot box and ammo box, we’re stuck right where we are, if not worse.

    CC

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    The thing I love about the Wire is that they don’t portray the cops as absolute heroes, but as flawed individuals working in a difficult system. And they don’t portray the drug dealers as absolute evil either. It’s an awesome show. I’m on Season 3.

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  5. Hal_10000 *

    Yeah, that’s something I throw in the face of every “republicans and libertarians only care about rich people” liberal. If that’s the case, why are WE the only one who give two shits about eminent domain abuse? It was’t the conservative wing that shit all over the little guy in Kelo.

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  6. HARLEY

    AS sad as it is, i think you are right, and i do not see us getting that back any time soon short of a massive reorganization of the Fed GOV.

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  7. RonK

    hate to say this but it has been going on quite a while, how does this compare with the fact the government can force you to sell your property to them so they can give it to someone else to develop(KELSO decision)

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  8. Mississippi Yankee

    I think assets seizures are fine as long as they happen after a conviction and the assets are definatively proved to be the result of criminal profits.

    That gives the ‘alleged’ prep plenty of time to liquidate and shift said assets. But I’m all for freezing their shit.

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  9. Hal_10000 *

    The depressing thing here is how much inertia there is supporting the system. There was an article the other day that postulated a Paul presidency and the gale-force resistance he would encounter trying to end the drug war. The criminalization of life has enormous forces behind it.

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  10. Seattle Outcast

    At what point do we stop expecting mercy from our overlords and start demanding that they respect our liberty?

    Whey they truly fear the populace might take them out and hang them as an example.

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  11. Thrill

    At what point do we stop expecting mercy from our overlords and start demanding that they respect our liberty?

    History shows that as long as shit is only taken away from small groups of people that the majority doesn’t have much sympathy for (“the rich”, “drug dealers”, “anti-environmental corporations”), these kinds of abuses go on and on.

    As long as the majority of American people don’t respect liberty or property, there’s zero chance of seeing any respect out of our officials.

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  12. HARLEY

    In which case, we are doomed as a nation.
    hopefully smaller parts can be carved off and run in a manner similar to what our founders intended.

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  13. CM

    It’s the best show ever made. David Simon is a genius. I held onto the last season for a year before watching it because I knew after that they’d be no more.

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  14. richtaylor365

    OK, I’ll check it out. I think my local library has it. I ordered Dexter 5 through Amazon the day it was available, should get it any day, I’m chomping at the bit.

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  15. CM

    I’d put The Wire up there with The Sopranos and Battlestar as my top three. Actually I’d add Six Feet Under and Deadwood to make a Top 5. Dexter would be in the next tier, with The Shield, Friday Night Lights and some others. Still very very good.

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  16. hist_ed

    And they don’t portray the drug dealers as absolute evil either.

    As a former drug dealer, I can say that there are all types in that particular business. Most are just normal guys trying to get by. I really like the Freakonmics look at ghetto dealers-most of them make less than minimum wage and often still live with their mom’s.

    There are always a few amoral shit heads, but if you are a drug user, the idea of dealing isn’t inherently evil.

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  17. hist_ed

    Dang CM, we have similar tastes. Sopranos and BSG are in my top tier as well (except for the las season of BSG-they went ’round the bend a bit). How about Deadwood? That’s on my top ten list.

    I watched Dexter with my wife and we had to stop because of her prosecutorial experienced. She’s just finished a series of classes on murders and wasn’t in the mood for more.

    The Wire was recommended by some of her law enforcement contacts as the most realistic cop show they’d seen.

    We really watch very little TV (and don’t actually get any TV as such-it’s all through Netflix, Hulu or DVDs from the library). So we tend to be pretty unforgiving. Only got through 2 or 3 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Just didn’t get it.

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  18. CM

    I added Deadwood as an edit….that show was unreal, so disappointing that it ended as it did.

    I’ve just knocked off all of Entourage (well aside from the current final season obviously) and have thoroughly enjoyed that.

    Also just watched Season 1 of Game of Thrones over the last week – absolutely brilliant, highly recommended. Can’t wait for Season 2. Also just finished Season 1 and 2 of ‘Justified’ (Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are two of my favourite actors and thankfully the script and story and quality of production is top-notch). Also really really like Southland as a modern-day cop-show (similar in some ways to The Shield).

    I’d add NYPD Blue into the top tier too.

    David Simon:
    I’d love to get hold of Homicide: Life on the Street, David Simon’s original cop series. I read the book recently. Did you see his Generation Kill (about Iraq)? I’ve got The Corner to watch sometime. For some reason I didn’t really get into Treme – was a bit too slow, even though I could see how well done it was.

    There are some top-notch British dramas too, but you guys consistently make some unbelievably good shit.

    Yeah I watch a lot of tv……but I pick and choose carefully and never watch adverts. And I never sit there watching ‘whatever is on’. So it sounds like way more than it actually is.

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  19. Poosh

    Reminds me of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (fantastic British film). Some of the drug dealers, well, the suppliers, were all posh university students.

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