One of the greatest political philosophers, Frederic Bastiat, wrote that the law should exist to protect life, liberty, and property, but unfortunately is often perverted into a means of “legal plunder.” In other words, the law is used to legitimize the use of force to deprive people of their wealth.
A recent Washington Post article Stop and Seize shines a light on actions by police that perfectly exemplify the sort of abuse Monsieur Bastiat warned about. In it, readers learn how police forces across the country exploit civil asset forfeiture laws to deprive hapless, innocent people of cash and other property.
What civil asset forfeiture amounts to is seizing property from someone on suspicion that it was in some way connected with a crime. The individual need not ever be convicted or even charged, but won’t get the property back without going through legal procedures which place the burden of proving innocence on him. Just to cite one of many cases given in the Post’s story, consider the plight of Mandrel Stuart,
“a 35-year old African American owner of a small barbecue restaurant in Staunton, VA was stunned when police took $17,550 from him during a stop in 2012 for a minor traffic infraction on I-66 in Fairfax. He rejected a settlement with the government for half of his money and demanded a jury trial. He eventually got his money back, but lost his business because he didn’t have the cash to pay his overhead.”