Civil forfeiture is still a thing – because, you know, fuck the Fourth Amendment. Excerpt:
Civil forfeiture lets the government confiscate property allegedly linked to crime without bringing charges against the owner. Since law enforcement agencies receive most or all of the proceeds from the forfeitures they initiate, they have a strong financial incentive to loot first and ask questions never, which explains why those sheriffs were not eager to enlighten the president about the downside of such legalized theft.
A new report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) highlights the potential for abuse. Between fiscal years 2007 and 2016, the OIG found, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took $4.2 billion in cash, more than 80 percent of it through administrative forfeitures, meaning there was no judicial oversight because the owners did not challenge the seizures in court.
Although the DEA would argue that the lack of challenges proves the owners were guilty, that is not true. The process for recovering seized property is daunting, complicated, time-consuming, and expensive, often costing more than the property is worth.
Consider Charles Clarke, a college student who in 2014 lost $11,000 in savings to cops at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport who said his suitcase smelled of marijuana. No contraband was found, and as is typical in such cases the allegations in the federal seizure affidavit were absurdly vague, merely asserting that the money had something to do with illegal drugs.
Clarke, who admitted smoking marijuana but denied selling it, ultimately got his money back with interest. But it took two years, and it was possible only because the Institute for Justice represented him for free.
Ask a number of pols about why civil forfeiture isn’t an absolute, gobsmacking kick in the nuts to any pretense of taking your stuff without due process, and nine times out of ten the answer will amount to “fuck you, that’s why.”
That’s not good enough.
Enter Wisconsin’s own Jim Sensenbrenner. He’s introduced the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures act, which if you run the acronym that makes DUE PROCESS.
That’s reason enough to pass it right there.
Seriously, it’s time someone in Congress remembered what due process is. Both parties have been wiping their asses with the Bill of Rights long enough.