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Posted: 2/3/2001 1:36:37 AM EDT
The following is taken from the web site of F.E.A.R. (Forfeiture Endangers American Rights).  Their site is devoted to fighting government abuse of our 5th Amendment rights.


[i]Why F.E.A.R. exists
The right to own property is one of the most basic principles in our form of government. The United States Constitution speaks of "life, liberty and property" all in one breath. The Fifth Amendment states that no citizen shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." The Fourth Amendment protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. . ."

Unfortunately, these familiar phrases from the Constitution do not mean what they seem to mean when "civil forfeiture" rears its ugly head -- or so says the Supreme Court. Relying on forfeiture's ancient "legal fiction" that it is the property that is on trial -- not the property owner -- the courts have interpreted away most due process protections in forfeiture cases, on the theory that property does not have rights. For example:

In criminal law, there is a constitutional right to counsel -- at the government's expense if the criminal defendant cannot afford a lawyer. There is no such right in civil forfeiture proceedings.
In criminal law, the person is presumed innocent, and the government must prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil forfeiture law, the property owner is presumed guilty, and must prove his innocence by a preponderance of the evidence.
In criminal law, the defendant has a right to trial by jury, and can force the government to prove him guilty even if he has no defense. Civil forfeiture claimants are often denied any trial at all -- because the court grants summary judgment for the government, or dismisses the claimant's claim as a sanction for failing to comply with discovery. Claimants forced to represent themselves too often lose because they are outwitted by aggressive prosecutors.
A number of state courts have held that there is no right to a jury trial at all in state civil forfeiture cases. And even when the claimant is given a trial, it is not like a criminal trial -- instead of the government having to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof is on the property owner to prove his/her innocence and the innocence of their property.
Asset forfeiture was virtually unheard until recently. In 1984, Congress overhauled the federal forfeiture laws to give the government incredible advantages over property owners, and began expanding the list of offenses which could trigger forfeiture. Now there are two hundred federal offenses which trigger forfeiture. But the most terrifying aspect of the legislative scheme in the 1984 crime bill was that it allowed the seizing police agency to keep what they seize and forfeit. This inherent conflict of interest has lead to greater and greater abuses, as forfeiture income -- and dependence on forfeiture income -- has risen. Asset forfeiture brings in close to a billion dollars a year for the federal government alone.
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights stands alone as the only organization dedicated to reform of the forfeiture laws. Although a growing number of national nonprofit organizations support our goals, forfeiture reform is only a minor plank in their political agenda. No
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 6:35:30 AM EDT
I knew they could take property for drug offenses but I didn’t know they could do it for dog fighting. I’ll have to get rid of these fighting dogs.  
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 6:48:40 AM EDT
In LA they can take your car if they think you are a drug runner.  No proof required.

I'd say that shreds the constitution.

Link Posted: 2/3/2001 6:59:33 AM EDT

What usually makes a Law Officer "think" someone is a drug runner? I don't know a lot about the drug business you see.  [smoke]
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 8:43:15 AM EDT
What if you and a few friends get pulled over on the way back from a gun show. In the car there are several guns you couldn't sell at the show, a bunch of ammo you bought, and a few thousand dollars in cash in your pockets. So are you drug dealers or law abiding citizens?
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 8:49:30 AM EDT
I saw a news piece on a little old lady who drove to New Orleans and bought a used car (a Cadillac, I think).  She was stopped on I-10 and the car searched.  The cop found an area in the trunk that looked as if it could be used to stash drugs.  No drugs, residue, paraphernalia or large amount of cash was found and the woman had no criminal record. Her car was confiscated and she had to hire a lawyer to petition the state to [b]allow[/b] her to sue for the return of her car.  Meantime, LA cops are using proceeds from forfeitures for training classes in such locations as Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.

So are you drug dealers or law abiding citizens?
View Quote

I suspect the answer would vary from cop to cop.

Link Posted: 2/3/2001 9:00:00 AM EDT
What if you and a few friends get pulled over on the way back from a gun show.
View Quote

If I was speeding, I'd get a speeding ticket. This is assuming I'm not drunk, my friends hadn't been shooting at road signs and the car didn't smell "funny". [smoke]
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 9:35:28 AM EDT
My scenario was purely hypothetical, I know there's never been an actual instance of a firearm owner being treated unfairly by the criminal justice system. And heck, why do we need that silly 4th amendment anyway, if you're not a criminal, you have nothing to worry about.
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 9:41:21 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 9:57:37 AM EDT
You guys have to remember that I live in Illinois (downstate, Chicago doesn't count) and all of our Law Enforcement Officers are very professional and courteous at all times. Except for that Barney Fife acting clown in ….…….and that sawed-off, inadequate feeling, nasty, little prick of a DOT officer and the ………………… and as long as I don’t leave the house they don’t present any problem.[:\]
Link Posted: 2/3/2001 2:55:07 PM EDT
Forfeiture laws are criminal, plain and simple.  And we allow it to happen.  Where is the outrage, other than from right-wing "nuts" such as ourselves?  Forfeiture laws, expansion of RICO, and hell, throw in "emminent domain" as well, are scary, shocking unforgiveable travesties against us.  And we sit here, waiting to see who's next.
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