Drug Prohibition on our Relationship with Law Enforcement + Civil Asset Forfeiture
No one wants to be harassed by the government.
My bet is if you live in a big city you’ve noticed parking enforcement seems to be the city’s only efficient agency, with meter maid ninjas waiting for you to turn your back for a split second when they appear in a puff of smoke and cut you an expensive ticket.
Video: civil asset forfeiture and it’s effect on law enforcement’s relationship with the public
What’s your association with them? Good … right? As one of the primary revenue generators for local governments, there are naturally incentives built in for the workers. Also, for the record, some meter maids make $100,000 a year. How you like dem apples?
Now, let’s take a look at an even more perverse and hard hitting incentive offered to law enforcement as a function of the War on Drugs.
It’s called “civil asset forfeiture,” a policy which allows police, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agencies to seize assets such as cash, cars, and homes used, or thought to be used in commission of a drug crime.So, some of you out there might be saying, what’s the problem. Drug dealers collect these resources, we take it back for society when we catch them. Simple, right?
First of all, in what is a total miscarriage of justice, due process, and in my opinion constitutionally protected rights, today, for the government to seize your property and assets, it doesn’t require a guilty verdict to a crime, just “probable cause” that you might be involved.
This gives enormous leeway in applying the law, and there are many examples of its misuse. Here are a just few of sadly, countless examples-
Virginia state police kept 80 percent of $28,000 confiscated from the car of a church secretary. Because he was traveling with such a large amount of cash, he was suspected of being involved in the drug trade. However, the man was transporting cash needed to buy new property for the church.
A man traveling with $22,000 cash in his car was stopped by a policeman. The officer took the money because he suspected it was drug money. However, the man said he was going to use the money to buy a car, for which he had active bids on Ebay, something he was able to prove on his computer. When the officer wrote up the report, he failed to mention of his intention to purchase a car. Do you think he just “forgot” …
A Texas nurse traveling to Nigeria claims in a class action that U.S. customs agents wrongly seized over $41,000 in cash from her that was meant to start a clinic for women and children in the country. It took her months, and a ton of wasted time and a substantial investment of cash, to get her original funds returned.
The list goes on, and on, and on. The question is WHY do you think that law enforcement is frequently making such “mistakes.” Again, show me someone’s incentives and I’ll predict their behavior.
Video: predicting someone’s behavior via the incentives before them
The agencies budget and individual’s pay are often directly tied to the forfeited assets. Those agencies look for any opportunity they can to seize cash, houses, jewelry, that they can turn into income.
That means of the confiscated assets flows to the budgets of the confiscating agency. In Philadelphia, for example, authorities have seized more than $64 million in assets over a 10-year period, with $25 million of these assets funding the salaries of public officials.
In Hunt County, Texas, some law enforcement officials received $26,000 for their efforts in seizing assets related to the War on Drugs. It’s completely perverse.
Furthermore drugs are being used as an excuse to curtail privacy freedoms, as well as watering down the 4th Amendment, which protects us from unusual search and seizure.
Government continues to expand their power at the expense of the ordinary citizen and our rights. It puts citizens in contact more and more with law enforcement on negative terms, reduces trust between us, and has the law engaging and policing activities which, while for many people are unsavory, are a mutually agreed upon exchange between consenting people.
Simply put, by legalizing drugs we can get rid of the excuse used to justify these unfair, unjust, and unconstitutional practices, and get the public back on the side of law enforcement, not to mention allowing them to use their man hours to investigate crimes that we actually care about.