“The protections our Constitution usually affords are out the window,” Louis Rulli, a clinical law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading forfeiture expert, says.
And why? Because property doesn’t have the same rights as a person. There is no right to an attorney and, in the majority of states, there is no “innocent until proven guilty.” You can tell that just by the title of the court cases: United States v. One Pearl Necklace and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.
Cops have their victims at a distinct disadvantage in a number of ways. First, they have the guns and badges. Second, civil asset forfeiture doesn’t have to meet the standard of “probable cause” (it barely reached the level of “reasonable suspicion”). And third, they know that, oftentimes, hiring a lawyer and taking the department to court would far exceed the cost of the confiscated money and valuables.
“Washington, D.C., charges up to twenty-five hundred dollars simply for the right to challenge a police seizure in court, which can take months or even years to resolve,” Silverman writes – and this is in a city overwhelmingly dominated by “fair-minded” liberals.
In fact, Silverman explains, the D.C. system has impoverished hundreds of poor citizens caught in this civil forfeiture nightmare. Cops there will confiscate anything and everything – including the automobiles these people use to get back and forth to low-paying, menial labor jobs (another sad but true fact about “progressive” D.C.). It is so bad there, in fact, that the city’s Public Defender Service has filed suit on behalf of 375 car-owners, calling the city P.D.’s policy “devastating for hundreds of families who depend on their cars for many of the urgent and important tasks of daily life.”
Signing off on theft made legal
Astonishingly, many police departments defend this abomination.
“We all know the way things are right now – budgets are tight,” Steve Westbrook, the executive director of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, told Silverman.
“It’s definitely a valuable asset to law enforcement, for purchasing equipment and getting things you normally wouldn’t be able to get to fight crime,” he said.
Other officers said, if the practice of civil forfeiture becomes too heavily regulated to use, their departments would collapse economically – and, of course, that would endanger public safety (can you say fearmongering).
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