If You’re a Cop it’s not Called Stealing

american money people with money stacks of money us money

In Nevada, a cop can you pull you over, say he smells weed, and then confiscate all of your winnings from a casino. And in Nevada—an American state, remember—you have to prove your innocence in order to try and obtain what is rightfully yours in the first place. Want a challenge? Try proving a negative.

This can happen in this country due to asset forfeiture laws, a relic of the war on drugs. The laws that were meant to prohibit people from—God forbid—smoking pot, are so twisted that an individual need only be suspected of having committed a crime for a police officer to confiscate the supposed proceeds of a drug operation.

But it does not always have to be lottery winnings. In fact, according to the Forbes article to which I linked in the opening paragraph, church donations are just another lump of cash that, in the interpretation of some cops, could have been obtained in no other way than through illicit drug transactions. The seized assets go straight into the pockets of police officers, who use them to purchaseDodge Vipers and construct elaborate party houses.

I do not attend church regularly, and so it is entirely possible that my moral compass may have come out of alignment lately, but I don’t think it gets much worse than jacking cash from a member of the clergy. Don’t those funds typically help the homeless or nourish the sick?

We seem to have forgotten it, so allow me to quote the 4th Amendment,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I am no Constitutional scholar, but indeed, the behavior of the aforementioned police officers appears not to be supported by the Supreme Law of the Land. In fact, there is simply no way to describe the practice of policing for profit other than with the word “evil.” Readers of this blog know that I very frequently admit to the existence of gray areas when it comes to many issues. This is not one of them. It’s black and white. There is no argument to support the police in this case. None.

Sometimes I am asked why I blog so strongly about the drug war. I reply that for nonviolent drug offenses one can be sentenced to life or, as the Forbes article outlines, robbed of their money and possessions. This is true even if an individual does not possess any drugs at all. Meanwhile, some rapists and murderers frequently serve less time than drug offenders with no histories of violence.

But at least a Federal Judge has begun the long process of questioning the dirty business of asset forfeiture. The Forbes article reports a judge’s comments on the issue,

“Asset forfeiture today, the way it exists federally, as well as in many states, is an institutional corruption…None of the [forfeiture] money should go tolaw enforcement.  That provides them an inappropriate incentive.”

Quotes like this might easily be filed under the category of COMMON SENSE by any thinking person. Yet this statement must be used to combat a patently unconstitutional practice that has endured for decades in a country which claims to cherish liberty. My my, how far we’ve come.


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