Archive for August 20th, 2013

Legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways.
–  Frederic Bastiat

cops gloating over lootTake a look at the posts tagged “A Broker in Pillage”  sometime, and you’ll see many examples of the armed robbery by which pathologically-bloated modern governments sustain and enrich themselves:  Robbing homeless people of their meager possessions for the “crime” of being homeless in the first place.  Stealing cash and automobiles from sex workers’ clients and robbing sex workers of their life savings.  Stealing rental vehicles from their owners because the renters crossed imaginary lines with them.  Stealing a yacht because there were cigars on board.  Attempting to steal a family’s livelihood  because a few strangers were arrested on the property.  Stealing an entire township because weeds were growing on it.  The outrage is disguised by the euphemism “asset forfeiture” (which almost makes it sound as though the victims voluntarily give cops their property), and it’s become such a gigantic, out-of-control problem that it’s even attracting attention from staid, mainstream publications like The New Yorker:

…In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient.  Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one…civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence.  One result is the rise of improbable case names such as United States v. One Pearl Necklace…United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins…[and] State of Texas v. $6,037…“The protections our Constitution usually affords are out the window,” Louis Rulli, a clinical law professor…and…leading forfeiture expert, observes.  A piece of property does not share the rights of a person.  There’s no right to an attorney and, in most states, no presumption of innocence.  Owners who wish to contest often find that the cost of hiring a lawyer far exceeds the value of their seized goods.  Washington, D.C., charges up to twenty-five hundred dollars simply for the right to challenge a police seizure in court, which can take months or even years to resolve…

Though this article is extremely long, it’s well worth your time if you’re unfamiliar with how egregious this extortion racket has become.  It focuses primarily (though by no means exclusively) on a case that’s particularly over the top even by the horrific standards discussed above: the bandit ring of Tenaha, Texas, whose modus operandi was to stop minorities for ridiculous “offenses” such as “driving in the left lane without passing” or “driving too close to the white line”, illegally search them, steal any valuables, and then force them to sign the loot over to the police under threat of spurious felony charges,Tenaha welcome sign false imprisonment and even abduction of their children.  The whole rotten scheme was shut down last year and federal criminal charges may be pending; the mastermind behind it, a former state trooper named Barry Washington, insisted to investigators that God had given him permission to rob people.

This thuggery is a cancer which has hastened the degradation of the justice system in both the United States and the United Kingdom.  But while the US media generally remains silent about it in most cases, or reports it somewhat neutrally when sex work is used as the excuse (“…A new [Minnesota] state law permits authorities to forfeit the cash that was used in or intended for…sex solicitation…[and] applies to prostitutes, patrons or pimps…in addition to other penalties offenders can face…”), their British cousins gleefully compete to see who can lick police boots the cleanest while vilifying their victims the most viciously, especially when those victims are involved in the sex industry:

…brothel boss [Margaret Paterson]…is set to lose her haul…as police bid to claw back £1.2 million in dirty cash…the remorseless 61-year-old faces financial ruin after the Crown confirmed it will seek to recoup the colossal seven-figure sum under Proceeds of Crime rules.  The confiscation grab would be one of the biggest single hauls in Scottish legal history…

And given that police departments in both countries keep growing while their governments criminalize ever-larger numbers of ordinary activities, you can bet the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Read Full Post »