Government becomes the nation's biggest thief

  • 23 November 2015
  • NormanL
Government becomes the nation's biggest thief

Federal, state, and local law enforcement have crossed into dangerous territory, thanks to asset forfeitutre laws. They now take more from the public than criminals do:

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually.

In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989.

Then by 2014">2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year.

Now, according to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.

The police have been violating the laws to confiscate assets all over the country. A scathing report on California warns of pervasive abuse by police to rob the people without proving that any crime occurred. Even Eric Holder came out in January suggesting reform because of the widespread abuse of the civil asset forfeiture laws by police.

Bloomberg News has reported now that Stop-and-Seize authority is turning the Police Into Self-Funding Gangs. They are simply confiscating money all under the abuse of this civil asset forfeiture where they do not have to prove you did anything.

To be fair, many of those seizures were from bad guys who flouted the law (and worse).

But it's the latter assertion that troubles us. Can it really be that some law enforcement officials have become "self-funding gangs?"

The threat to individual liberty from stop-and-seize is painfully clear. Without requirements for an arrest or for a warrant, the power to confiscate cash is a clear diminution of property rights. Effectively, the police have been given official sanction to commit literal highway robbery without the threat of punishment. People whose property was seized must pay a lot of money and spend a long time in court for even the chance of getting it back, and police who seize money with no good reason don't, apparently, suffer any threat of discipline.

In short, we have a Fourth Amendment problem here. Warrants are a bulwark against arbitrary government power. Naturally, governments have sought, and won, multiple ways around the restrictions warrants place on their power. Some are in the name of national security. Others seek to protect children, to stop drug traffickers, and so on.

We are the first to acknowledge law enforcement is a dangerous, and essential job. But we cannot allow fundamental liberty to be traded away in the name of safety and worse, bureaucratic over-reach.