Last year the federal government seized through its asset forfeiture laws $1,921,273,552.00 from both convicted and suspected criminal wrongdoers–$97,831.788.00 of which came from Texas.
DOJ to Expand Prosecutions, Asset Forfeiture
In a July 17, 2017 speech before the National District Attorneys Association in Minneapolis, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the assembled state and local law enforcement officials that they could expect an expanded Justice Department role in fighting crime in five areas: gang activity, prescription drug abuse, gun crimes, immigration offenses, and asset forfeiture.
The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 created an Assets Forfeiture Fund within the Justice Department.
28 U.S.C. § 524(c) authorizes the Attorney General to use forfeited funds to pay for any costs associated with asset forfeiture proceedings, including costs related to the management and disposition of seized property, satisfying mortgages and valid liens, and dealing with all innocent owner claims.
Laws Allowing Government Forfeiture Multiply
Over the last twenty-seven years, the number of federal laws allowing government forfeiture doubled from 200 to 400. Within the mass array of these forfeiture laws, there are three types of forfeiture: criminal forfeiture, civil judicial forfeiture and administrative forfeiture.
Criminal forfeitures are in personam actions (against the person). They are part of the prosecution of a criminal defendant. These actions require the Government to include forfeiture paragraph in the indictment, and prove the property was either used in or derived from the criminal activity for which the defendant is being tried.
In four types of cases—money laundering, Controlled Substances Act, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act(RICO), and obscenity—third parties are given ancillary hearings to assert any interest they may have in seized criminal property.
Civil judicial forfeitures are in rem actions (against the property). Property is hauled before the court as the defendant to face charge(s) of criminal wrongdoing. The owner of the property does not have to be charged with a crime for the property to be forfeitable.
Administrative forfeitures are also in rem actions. In these cases, the federal seizing agency, such as the DEA, ICE, and Customs are permitted to forfeit property without any judicial involvement.
Asset forfeiture finds its roots in the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. § 1607. The following kinds of property can be seized without court order: merchandise unlawfully imported; any conveyance that is used to import (such as shipping vessel), transport (vehicles), or store (warehouses) controlled substances; a monetary instrument used to facilitate a crime; or any property that does not exceed $500,000.
As we recently pointed out, asset forfeiture is an increasingly corrupt, insidious law enforcement tool. This was evidenced by the results of a Reason investigation reported about this past January. That investigation focused on 23,000 police seizures over the past five decades in Cook County, Illinois. The investigation’s conclusions revealed that it was Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods which were hit the hardest by corrupt asset forfeitures.
Government Seized More Property Than Stolen by Burglars
In 2014, the Washington Post reported that between 2001 and 2014 warrantless police seizures totaled $2.5 billion; and, in 2015, Armstrong Economics reported that the government seized more property in 2014 ($4.5 billion) than was stolen by burglars.
AG Sessions Wants More Money
The King’s main horseman, Attorney General Sessions wants more money, more property from lawful taxpaying citizens.
“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture – especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions told the district attorneys. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.”
Associated Press reported on July 19, 2017 that Sessions’ new policy “has been criticized because it allows law enforcement to take possessions without criminal convictions or, in some cases, indictments. The policy … targets so-called adoptive forfeiture, which lets local authorities circumvent more restrictive state laws to seize property under federal law. The proceeds are then shared with federal counterparts.”
This new policy is highway robbery by the King’s men dressed in fancy clothing.
Sessions’ new policy has already received staunch Congressional opposition from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California who proposed legislation earlier this year to tighten the kind of asset forfeiture now being initiated by the attorney general.
Conservatives Call Increased Forfeitures a Step Backward
“[Sessions’ move] “is a troubling step backward” that would “bring back a loophole that’s become one of the most flagrantly abused provisions of this policy,” the conservative lawmaker told AP.
“I’m glad that at least some safeguards will be put in place [under Sessions’ new policy], but their plan to expand civil forfeiture is, really, just as concerning as it was before,” Rep. Issa added. “Criminals shouldn’t be able to keep the proceeds of their crime, but innocent Americans shouldn’t lose their right to due process, or their private property rights, in order to make that happen.”
Property Owners Deserve Due Process
Rep. Issa is not alone in his desire for asset forfeiture reform. Texas state senator Konni Burton, a tea party lawmaker from the Dallas/Fort Worth area who is pro-life and pro-borders, drew the ire of President Trump earlier this year because she also supports reforms of civil asset forfeiture laws. The president, who has manufactured a crime crisis hysteria, joked about destroying Sen. Burton’s career because of her civil asset forfeiture reform proposals.
Burton, and a host of other state lawmakers, was outraged at Trump’s remarks.
“When you give law enforcement the ability to take your property without a conviction that’s big government,” Burton said in response to the president’s unseemly remarks.
It’s much more than “big government” – it is corrupt government.
The King, just because he is King, should not be allowed to plunder and steal private property from innocent owners who have never been indicted, much less convicted, of any criminal wrongdoing.
Sen. Burton has filed legislation to repeal civil asset forfeiture in Texas and replace it with strict criminal asset forfeiture.
“Police can still seize property that they think has been involved in a crime,” says Burton, “but for them to keep it … you have to be convicted of a crime.”
Texas Given “D+” for Forfeiture Laws
AP cited findings by the Institute for Justice that at least 20 states have either adopted what Sen. Burton has proposed or created requirements that there be a criminal conviction or at least some burden on proof to be met before the government can take private property. The Institute has given Texas a D+ for its forfeiture laws.
Hundreds of millions of dollars has forced Texas law enforcement to its knees to kiss the King’s ring so they can seize innocent private property giving unto the King what is not the King’s.
That is not justice, and that is most definitely not Texas.