Virtually all of us lock our doors. Many install burglar alarms. We do this to keep burglars from stealing our stuff. Yet, as a country, we face another group of people that take far more than burglars. Those guys carry badges.
It’s all part of a program with the nice legal sounding name of civil asset forfeiture. This allows law enforcement agencies to seize property if they suspect a crime. You can lose your property even if you aren’t convicted or not even charged. The agencies involved get to divvy up their booty. You can try to get your property back but will need to hire a lawyer and go to court. Often this will cost more than the value of the lost property.
These laws were enacted to cripple large criminal organizations. However, ordinary citizens are often the victims. Since those seizing the property get to profit by it, there is obviously tremendous opportunity for abuse.
Sometimes people can lose more than their property. Take the case of Donald Scott. One morning 31 officers came charging onto his ranch and broke down his front door. In the process he was shot and killed. Supposedly he was running a massive marijuana operation yet a high tech search of his property failed to uncover a single plant.
The Justice Department recently suspended its program for budgetary reasons but it is now back in business. This allows police departments to seize assets under federal as well as state laws.
Our law enforcement agencies have difficult, dangerous jobs. Abuses by a few rotten apples tarnish the image of those who are trying to protect and serve us. This program needs to be reined in.