Legalized Theft aka Civil Asset Forfeiture

By Captain A

If I told you the most effective robber of the American people was the US government would you believe it? Im not even talking about theft via taxes, but theft via civil asset forfeiture. Personally, I think the fact that civil asset forfeiture exists is a huge testament to the inefficiency of central planning. Why would state and local law enforcement need to participate in legalized theft when the government is supposedly capable of providing the people with a police department. Most individuals reading this have been asked “without taxes then who pays for police?”. To them I say clearly not the government, since departments are participating in civil asset forfeiture at record highs.  

It doesn’t take much effort on google to locate stories of abuse that have occurred under civil asset forfeiture laws.  A New Jersey man lost $22,000 when traveling through Tennessee on his way to purchase a car.  Police suspected the money to be drug money and simply took it.  Since the individual could not prove immediately that he had no criminal intent the police assumed him guilty.  Since when in America are we guilty until proven innocent?  In Oklahoma, there are fears concerning police using card magnet readers.  The argument being police can simply empty an individual’s bank account using the card readers.   The two most troubling things that exposed themselves upon reading the Oklahoma story are 1) at least 25 other states have these card readers, and 2) civil asset forfeiture has become so profitable that the business making the card readers will earn almost 8% of all money stolen via forfeiture.  Government has not only motivated law enforcement to participating in “legalized” theft, but now businesses are cashing in on the stolen goods.  

According to a report put together by the Institute of Justice, since the creation of the of the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund in 1984, there was an increase in forfeiture funds between 1986-2014 of 4,667%. Between 2001-2014 alone there was an increase of over 1,000% collecting just under $29 billion from the people. In 2014 the DOJ and Treasury Forfeiture Funds saw $4.5 billion in net assets. That is to say – after they paid back some of the people who they stole from, they retained $4.5 billion in 2014 alone. States and local departments aren’t actually required to report their forfeitures which makes studying their numbers more difficult, according to the report.   My main issue with civil forfeiture, aside from it being blatant theft, is that it actually gives departments incentive to participate in the theft. The amount of states that simply require only a “preponderance of evidence” is scary. No trial, no criminal conviction, just the subjective interest of the officer involved. If a police officer knows that a major portion of his department’s budget comes from civil asset forfeiture then it benefits him to participate, and in some cases his job may depend upon it. This doesn’t imply all police officers are bad. This implies that the federal government is hanging a fucking jelly donut in front of police departments, and it’s too good not to grab. It’s not surprising to me that civil asset forfeiture has exploded, especially if the department is self funding via civil asset forfeiture. Figuring out which departments self-fund via civil asset forfeiture would be interesting, but because departments aren’t necessarily required to report their numbers that study would be impossible.  

Even if the state doesn’t keep the funds seized under civil asset forfeiture, there is a policy called “equitable sharing” that allows any state participating to receive a portion of the funds stolen by the federal government. For example, Texas keeps 70% of the funds taken via civil asset forfeiture, and the remaining portion is sent to the federal government. This remaining portion is then redistributed amongst the states. And if you were wondering, only 8 states don’t keep the funds collected from civil asset forfeiture. Unfortunately, that is misleading because all of those states participate in “equitable sharing”, so they are still receiving stolen goods. $4.7 billion was paid out between 2000-2013 via the “equitable sharing” program.  
Theft is theft. Government “legalized” theft is still theft. There is no possible way I can support civil asset forfeiture. Especially when the government is simultaneously threatening me if I steal anything. Not only does the government steal from us via taxes, but they’ve managed to motivate law enforcement departments to steal from you as well. Cato institute did a poll and found 84% of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture. My first thought when I saw that number was — fuck the 16% who think it is ok to steal from someone. Then I looked up the percentage of people employed by government which came to 18%, and the 16% made more sense. When your paycheck depends on government plunder then government plunder is okay!  If ever there was a great argument against government then it is found in civil asset forfeiture.  

Sources  – Institute of Justice report – “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” http://ij.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/policing-for-profit-2nd-edition.pdf
Cato institute – https://www.cato.org/policing-in-america/chapter-4/civil-asset-forfeiture

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