Police Asset Forfeiture

The new world order is really taking shape. Not only are humans being more conditioned to become robots, we are being slowly conned out of our own rights and liberties. Everything we do and have belongs to the state, providing authorities with more rights to our lives and possessions than we have ourselves. 

About a year and a half ago, NPR reported a story about how police can seize assets even if no laws were broken

That was my first exposure to the concept that allows police to take anything someone owns basically because they can. Typically, police take obvious contraband such as drugs, guns, stolen goods, etc. This policy of “asset forfeiture” takes seizures to a whole new level affecting both people that have broken the law, and people just suspected of having broken a law.  

Why did this come to be?

Forfeiture laws originated with British maritime laws in the 1600s. The government would confiscate goods of any ship suspected of wrongdoing, even for things as basic as not flying the British flag. The concept was picked up in the colonies to enforce taxation efforts, but was basically a dormant practice until prohibition in the 1920s. Now, during our endless drug wars, this concept has grown into full scale legalized robbery.

How is it enforced/carried out?  

As a sort of profit-sharing scam, police restricted by local laws enlist federal authorities to seize personal assets in exchange for some of the assets. Asset forfeiture could be anything suspected of being used in a crime, such as cash from illegal sales, cars used to transport contraband, cars driven by drunk drivers, homes where contraband is stored or sold, etc. As can be imagined, the situation is ripe for abuse.

The infuriating part to most people is that no trial is required to seize goods, just a guess by the investigator that a crime occurred. The defendant needs to prove their own innocence to get goods returned. That is, of course, if the person can afford legal counsel and the courts aren’t also in on the take.

Not only can police seize property based on suspected crimes, they can seize property on associated grounds. For example, if police find someone with a large amount of cash, they can use that as cause to seize other properties or businesses. Or, if someone owns a hotel and a guest sells drugs from one of the rooms, police could extend that to the owner and seize the hotel. The rationale used is that the person is not a suspect, but the property needs to prove itself innocent.  

A Philadelphia family was completely uprooted by this practice. When a man was suspected of selling prescription pills, the district attorney seized the house forcing his wife and three kids into a motel, then the woods, then a relative’s house, until they finally were able to rent an apartment. Eventually, the wife could not continue making both rent and mortgage payments, so the house was foreclosed. After her house was gone, the DA then dropped the case against her. Another year and a half later, the husband finally went to trial resulting in somewhat of a controversial conviction. The part that really stings is that the police who took over the house had their own track record of abuse of power and drug dealing within the department.

There is literally no way to trust anyone.  

At a birthday gathering at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, police conducted a commando-style raid based on an old law targeting speakeasies. Forty people were forced to the ground, ticketed and had their property, including cars outside, confiscated. Nothing illegal occurred and the charges were dropped, but cars remained in impound for as long as a year until the owners paid to get them back.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit for the victims and a US District Court judge determined the patron’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated. That is, a person can’t be arrested and stripped of possessions simply for being present where an alleged illegal activity has happened. Moreover, the judge found that Detroit police had a pervasive practice of attaining property.

Kids’ lives uprooted, futures endangered, families broken apart, businesses closed, innocent people targeted, communities scared… all under the guise of serving and protecting. The stories go on and on, read them all day long with a simple Google search. John Oliver did a comical analysis of the practice in a 2014 episode of Last Week Tonight.

Last year, Attorney General Holder put a stop to local and state police seizures without evidence of a crime. Apparently, the program has been revived to an even greater extreme. In Oklahoma, police have electronic devices to read bank cards to seize any assets at any traffic stop for any reason without any proof.

The question of what to do about this is about as hard to ask as it would be to answer or change. Clearly, policies need to be established on what authorities are allowed to do with seized goods. Removing conflicts of interest would be the first step in not having random innocent people targeted. To start with, the burden of proof needs to be placed onto law enforcement rather than a material item. And, very significantly, there needs to be a nonpartisan method of providing all victims ample opportunity and representation to fight back against such ruthless practice.

Law enforcement and criminal justice is supposed to be about keeping the peace and reducing crime. Nothing about civil asset forfeiture does that. This is simply a cash cow ripping people off. Certainly, destroying people’s lives is not helping them or keeping peace. Extortion is all the more this is, at best.  At the worst, it’s a forfeiture of human rights and liberties.

Written By Guest Writer Daniel Myrick


Photo by U.S. Marshals Service


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