I’ve made it clear many times: asset forfeiture is one of the most vile things our federal and state governments do. This is the process by which law enforcement seizes people’s money, homes, cars and other assets and … well, sometimes that’s it. Sometimes they charge them with a crime … eventually. Some states have tried to reign it in, but the Feds have created an “equitable sharing” program in which law enforcement can bypass state regulations by having a “joint investigation” with the Feds. They turn over the money to the Feds, who take a cut and then give the rest back. The wonderful Institute for Justice calls this “policing for profit”.
If this sounds like a criminal enterprise it should. Entire sections of highway have now become revenue streams for law enforcement. And I’ll give you three guesses as to the skin color of the people this happens to the most often.
Earlier this month, California tried to pull the plug on this literal highway robbery. Yesterday, that effort collapsed:
Yesterday, California Senate Bill 443 went down in flames in the state’s Assembly. The bill, sponsored by Democrat Holly Mitchell in the Senate and Republican David Hadley in the Assembly, would have reformed the state’s asset forfeiture regulations to require that police and prosecutors actually convict citizens of crimes before seizing ownership of their assets to spend on themselves.
Imagine that. Almost as if no one should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
The bill originally passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate earlier in the year, but then police and prosecutors got wind of it and began a campaign of fearmongering against it, telling legislators it would threaten budgets and would cut law enforcement out of the federal asset forfeiture sharing program. The law had been stripped down so that the state would be able to continue participating in the federal program, but even that wasn’t enough. It didn’t even get close to passing the Assembly.
Here’s my proposal. The citizens of California should seize the assets of every legislator who voted against this bill under suspicion of corruption. After all, this is the body that once included Leland Yee, who has now pled guilty to racketeering charges that involved bribery, gun-running and money laundering. Under the rules of engagement that the legislature is clearly comfortable with, any legislator with a lot of money should be presumed guilty, his assets seized and onus put on him to prove his innocence.
Hey, fair is fair, assholes. If you’re going to treat the common citizen like walking law enforcement piggy banks, it’s time you ponied up too.