Archive for the ‘property’ Category

Ever heard of civil forfeiture?

It goes like this:  6 Billion dollars worth of U.S. citizen’s assets seized each year by law enforcement on “suspicion” with no warrant or prosecution needed for seizure and sale of the assets.  There is no compensation for the owner.

I think this can only be happening because the average citizen hasn’t heard of it and probably wouldn’t believe it.


I believe the logic is that the government declares it can sue an item of property instead of an individual.  In the suit, the government is listed as the plaintiff, the item of property as the defendant, and the legal owner of the item as simply a third party “claimant”.  The item itself is assumed to have been potentially complicit in some alleged crime, whether or not the owner of the item was involved or has knowledge.

Because objects don’t have the same rights as human beings, the item is then simply disposed of and if the owner wants even a chance of compensation they have to initiate costly litigation in a government courtroom (it is germane that both the confiscating agency and court belong to the same entity) to attempt to assert a third party interest in the item.

This leads to ridiculous lawsuits with titles such as “USA vs. $124,700”.


Here is the opening text of the above suit:

The United States initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against $124,700 in United States currency, alleging that the money was subject to forfeiture as the proceeds of a drug transaction or as property used to facilitate the possession, transportation, sale, concealment, receipt, or distribution of a controlled substance. See 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). Three individuals filed claims opposing the forfeiture, and after a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the claimants. The government appeals, and we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Notice what the wording does?  The suit magically erases the fact that any individual ever owned the item in question, and assumes the government has – and has always had – complete jurisdiction, which is equivalent to ownership.

By the way, if any lawyers are reading this, feel free to tell me tell me if you think I’m presenting this incorrectly.

This is not at all the first time government has assumed ownership over private items.  Property taxes – taxation on any item which is privately owned – effectively make you a renter of your own property.  If you neglect to pay taxes the government can place a lien against an item.  And the value of the taxes collected over time inevitably exceed the value of the item itself (especially if you figure in the horrible tax of inflation, which averages about 4 1/2 percent per year), so the government is really ultimately claiming true ownership.

This leads to it’s own set of ridiculous circumstances, such as the government confiscating a woman’s home over a $6.30 tax bill:


The confiscation of the house was executed by Beaver County, Pennsylvania.  But confiscations like this happen in every state, and can occur all levels of government.  It’s not hyperbole or fear-mongering to make the very rational conclusion that if this happens to one citizen, it could happen to you next.

Coming back to civil forfeiture confiscations, over one third of them happen at the federal level.

The 4th Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

But there can be no protection for private property when government assumes it legally owns everything.


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