Civil Forfeiture: The Culture of Take First, Ask Questions Later

Civil Forfeiture: The Culture of Take First, Ask Questions Later

With the recent explosion of tension and publicity surrounding the events at the Cliven Bundy ranch, one subject has taken up major space in the political spotlight: property rights. These rights are guaranteed by one very important text: Our nation’s Constitution. But the current administration has been treating it as if it were the Terms and Conditions on an online tech forum. In the wake of the recent Bundy scandal, another abuse of power by the administration has come under attack: Civil Forfeiture.

The Government can legally confiscate your property if it’s used to break the law. Now any rational human being should be able to conclude that this is reasonable grounds for the authorities to search your property; however, these Civil Forfeiture laws authorize the Government to take your property without charges or a conviction. Yes, you heard right. These are the kinds of unsettling conditions which made the Soviet Union such a terrifying place, gulags aside, yet this is happening on American soil.

A perfect example of this blatant abuse of Civil Forfeiture laws is the case of Russell Caswell, a motel owner in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. His property was seized on the grounds that possession and prostitution had taken place on his premises.

According to Fox News, “the basic accusation they used to seize his motel was that Caswell could have done more to police what was happening in his own motel. That was news to Caswell, who says over the years he had comp’d the cops free rooms and space so they could set up stings and bust drug deals going down.”

“I’ve found, which is kind of hard to believe, but I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Caswell said in court. “And I have to rent them a room unless I have a real good reason not to or I get accused of discrimination and that kind of thing.”

“And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense,” he added.

Speaking with a Fox News correspondent, Institute for Justice attorney Larry Salzman summed up it up quite well, saying that actions like these “breed a culture of take first, ask questions later.”  Salzman’s words are very true. When our own Government, refuses to respect the Fifth Amendment, not only does tyranny and injustice follow, but just think about the impression it leaves in the minds of our youth who are being raised to believe that such violations are the norm.

And these incidents aren’t without their money trail, oh no. In fact, Fox News has recently reported that the Government has netted $6.3 billion dollars in 2013 through civil forfeiture. With this, all sorts of implications regarding potential abuses of power within our own justice system are raised. This is a system which is supposed to be incorruptible. The very system which we place our faith in to maintain order in our society may be ‘policing for profit‘.

It’s time to close the loophole on Civil Forfeiture laws. We already have “warrior cops” who take advantage of these laws to bankroll their departments. Protect your Fifth Amendment rights. Share this article!

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(Photo courtesy of Waldo Jaquith, via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)



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