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September 14, 2011

Asset Forfeiture on the Rise

Quote of the Day: “We take his money and, um, count it as a drug seizure.” A Douglas County, Nebraska Sheriff’s Deputy, who didn’t like the attitude of a man pulled over at a traffic stop

Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property and cash, even when the owner isn’t charged of a crime. Innocent owners must go through a costly, time-consuming process to get their property back — and even then they may be denied. Police departments get to sell the seized property and keep most of the proceeds. If you’re unfamiliar with this form of legalized theft, we recommend you learn more on our End Asset Forfeiture page.

Back in May, 2009, we predicted that because of the bad economy and budget crunches, police will “increase searches, raids, and seizures to generate more revenue.”

As the letter below demonstrates, our prediction has been proven true.

That’s why I wrote to my Representative and Senators to end this evil practice.

You may borrow from or copy this letter…

According to the Wall Street Journal…

* In 2010, federal, state, and local government stole homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases
* The total take topped $2.5 billion, MORE THAN DOUBLING IN FIVE YEARS
* More than 400 federal statutes allow for forfeiture, such as (suspected) violations of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act
* Which is double the number from the year 2000
* Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner
* Unlike in criminal cases, the poor are not entitled to free legal representation to help them get their property back

This means, to anyone with common sense, that an individual’s property could be seized without due process of law, a CLEAR violation of the Fifth Amendment.

Recent victims include…

* James Leito, who hired an armored car company for his check cashing business. That company turned out to be under an FBI probe, and the FBI seized $392,000 that rightfully belonged to Leito. It took years for the money to be returned to him.
* Raul Stio, from whom the IRS took $157,000 of cash deposits in his bank account, even though these were proceeds from his legitimate businesses.
* Jorge Jaramillo, whose $16,000 was taken by authorities although he was going to buy a car from someone who wanted cash; he got the money back only because he had pro bono legal representation.
* Unknown thousands of similarly innocent people who can’t afford to fight for the return of their cash or property.

Asset forfeiture does NOT stop crime. Instead, it encourages government lawlessness. Under the federal government’s Equitable Sharing programs, local police departments can keep up to 80% of forfeiture proceeds if they work with the feds on seizures. This creates a conflict-of-interest by directing police attention away from law enforcement, and toward making money for their departments.

To restore justice and the Fifth Amendment, please introduce legislation…

* That ends federal civil asset forfeiture programs
* That terminates Equitable Sharing
* And that denies federal funds to any state or local government that continues asset forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture is armed robbery, plain and simple. It should not be tolerated anywhere in the United States.

END LETTER

You can send your letter using DownsizeDC.org’s easy-to-use Educate the Powerful System.

Do your colleagues and neighbors know that their goods can be stolen by law enforcement? …that they don’t even need to be charged with a crime? Let them know: Share this Downsizer-Dispatch with them, and tell them you took action — that you sent a message to your representatives, and you want them to join you.

An Important Question: Do you want DownsizeDC.org to miss out on $3,899? Do you want DownsizeDC.org to miss its budgetary goal this month?

DC Downsizers have been given a challenge by Bill Haynes of CMI Gold & Silver.

He says, “I’ll match the first $5,000 of new contributions to DownsizeDC.org” (that’s NEW pledges and NEW one-time contributions; PayPal STILL accepted, but not counted towards the match). So far this month, DownsizeDC.org has received $1,101, which Bill has matched. 

Please make Mr. Haynes part with $3,899 more of his money by September 30, and help YOUR DownsizeDC.org to meet its MODEST budget goal. 

James Wilson
Policy Research Director
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

If your comment is off-topic for this post, please email us at feedback@downsizedc.org

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