Fixing Asset Forfeiture

I discussed civil asset forfeiture in “Spoils of War” and also discussed the IRS seizure of assets for “structuring” deposits in “Repeal the Bill of Rights” under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  I won’t say these policies should be eliminated because, in some cases, they do serve to disrupt cash flow for criminal activities, however when the NYPD boasts that they seized more cash than they can count they sound more like Blackbeard’s pirates than civil servants.  When innocent citizens have to file expensive lawsuits to recover wrongfully seized property the system is broken, so let’s fix it.  Here’s one way.

Assets seized from people not charged with a crime must be returned to the owner within one business day if criminal charges are not filed within a reasonable time, e.g., 48-72 hours.

Assets seized from people charged with a crime must be held in escrow pending outcome of the trial.  If the defendant is found “not guilty” the assets must be returned to the owner.  If the asset was cash it must have been held in an interest-bearing account and the cash returned with accrued interest.  If lawfully acquired real property (buildings, vehicles, firearms, etc.) was seized the state must preserve and maintain that property such that it can be returned intact and without loss.  If the individual is found “guilty” the judge will determine what happens to the seized property.

I think this is a reasonable balance between the needs of law enforcement to disrupt criminal activity and the rights of citizens to keep their lawfully acquired property.  When police departments consider themselves to be profit centers the entire concept of law enforcement is maligned.

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Disabled Lives Matter

Black Americans often say that young black men must be warned about how do deal with police and other authorities, i.e., very carefully.  Evidently disabled people and their caretakers need the same type of warning as we see more violence against the disabled by authorities who are supposed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.

A few months ago a disabled teenage girl suffering from brain cancer was beaten until bloody by TSA agents.  She became confused when an alarm went off so they immediately threw her to the floor and arrested her.  TSA agents have also been accused of hassling a 9-year old boy who has a pacemaker after undergoing multiple surgeries for heart defects.  Unfortunately TSA agents are Federal employees so they enjoy substantial protection against being fired for using excessive force.

Recently an unarmed deaf man was shot and killed by a state police officer who pursued him for a traffic violation.  The victim didn’t respond to the officer’s commands because he couldn’t hear them, but the officer must have thought that sign language posed a lethal threat.  There have been no protests, no demonstrations, and little media coverage because this situation doesn’t fit the mold that the liberal media wants to publicize: the officer was black and the victim was white.  If the races were reversed so would be the media coverage.  There would also be protests and maybe even a remark from the President.  This sure looks like a use of excessive force (or is it a hate crime?).  If the victim was unarmed but the officer felt threatened, a Taser would have subdued him.  Will the officer be charged or will filing charges against a black officer be called racism?

We hear how police officers around the country are being trained to be sensitive to Islam so they don’t “offend” anyone.  Instead of indoctrinating officers in the latest manifestation of political correctness they should be teaching them the difference between sign language and Kung Fu fighting.  An unarmed young father didn’t deserve to die for a traffic ticket.

Any police officer who can’t recognize a deaf person doesn’t belong in uniform. File charges or admit that disabled lives don’t matter in the USA.

Update:  From New Hampshire comes a news story that proves that it was not necessary for a cop to shoot an unarmed deaf man.  A distraught man who wanted to commit “suicide by cop” approached officers with razor blades.  The officers had the unquestionable authority to shoot an armed assailant, but instead they Tased him.  No officers were harmed and hopefully the suicidal man will get mental health treatment.  So, why did a black cop shoot an unarmed deaf man?  Maybe he hates disabled people.  Maybe he was exacting revenge for the shooting of black motorists by white cops.  Maybe he was just having a bad day.  Regardless, he murdered an unarmed man over a traffic stop.  In the interest of justice for a family that lost their father charges should be filed, and the shooting investigated as a hate crime.

Christmas Update:  Officers in California destroyed a family’s Christmas joy by killing an unarmed 73-year old grandfather who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  They were primed to shoot by a false report that he was armed.  Of course there were no body cameras, no dash camera, just the word of the cops against a dead grandfather.  Sue the city and the person who lied (that person didn’t recognize their own neighbor so how could they recognize a gun in the dark?).

2017 Update:  Tragically another deaf man was gunned down by cops. He was returning home from a walk.  Unfortunately he routinely carried a walking stick.  When he “refused” to drop this “weapon” (because he couldn’t hear the order) he was murdered. Now if he had been carrying a shotgun the use of deadly force would have been justified, but wouldn’t a Taser have protected the officers from the perceived threat of a stick? Why has deadly force become the standard police response to any “threat” rather than the last resort it used to be? Is the USA becoming a police state?
In 2017 we even saw an unarmed woman shot and killed while trying to report a suspected crime to the police. Of course the shooting officer ( who broke every procedural rule and endangered his partner by firing across his body) is a Black Muslim from the anarchical nation of Somalia, so he’s in a “protected class” and will probably not face any charges for an action that would land any civilian (or white police officer) in prison for a long time. Our ultra-liberal media was as quiet as possible about this shooting, even though it would have advocated days of rage if the races had been reversed.  Political correctness always trumps justice in the USA today.

Retroactive Laws: A New Assault on Private Property

A retroactive law is a law that criminalizes a past action that wasn’t a crime at the time.  Known as “ex post facto” laws, they are strictly and unambiguously prohibited by Article I, Section 9 (for Congress) and Section 10 (for states) of our Constitution.  They can be used to punish a person and/or to seize their property which is why such laws are banned.  Progressives, however, see the Constitution as an obstacle to their agenda.  I’ll look at one example of how they’re being used and then discuss the very slippery slope of ex post facto laws.

The state of California has passed some restrictive new gun laws.  One bans the manufacture and sale of high capacity magazines; the other (SB1446) prohibits possession of such magazines (hence requires confiscation) that were legally purchased in the past.  The constitutionality of the first law may be under debate everywhere but the second one is clearly unconstitutional.  It’s a retroactive ban, therefore it’s a ex post facto law.  Those who don’t submit to a mandatory “buyback” will be criminalized for what was a legal activity at the time of purchase.  The term “buyback” itself is a misnomer.  The government can’t buy back something it never owned.  If the government asserts ownership of all private property it’s a communist government.  Unless the government is paying full retail value for confiscated items it’s also theft.  Obviously confiscation of items obtained illegally or used for criminal purposes is a different matter that doesn’t involve ex post facto laws.

OK, you don’t care about the Second Amendment, but let’s look at just how slippery a slope ex post facto laws against private property could become.

The EPA has issued increasingly strict tailpipe emission and gas mileage requirements for cars and other light vehicles.  Tier I took affect in 1994, Tier 2 in 2004, and the Obama administration has approved even stricter mileage requirements in the future.  The standards that took effect in 1994 and 2004 effectively banned the future sale of new vehicles that didn’t meet those standards but they didn’t ban the ownership of older vehicles.  Suppose, however, that our progressive government, influenced by the socialist UN, decided to confiscate all vehicles that didn’t meet Tier 2 standards?  Of course they’d pay owners some token sum for surrendering their means of transportation but it would impose the greatest hardship on those who could least afford it.  Do they care?  NO!  Most politicians are rich.  As  I said once before, rich elitists will always live above the messes they cause for the masses.

You don’t think this could happen?  Don’t make me say “I told you so” again!  Over a year ago I predicted that we might someday see an environmental impact tax on meat.  Now the UN is actively recommending such a tax and Denmark is considering one.  Socialists are as relentless as ISIS when it comes to imposing their will on everyone.

The concept that private property that is obtained legally and not used for criminal purposes belongs to individuals, not the government, is fundamental to our freedom and our entire way of life.  Don’t let socialists incrementally deprive us of that freedom.

Got Heroin? Thank a Democrat.

Hankering for heroin? Cracking up for cocaine? Thank President Obama and all the far-left progressives, including Hillary, who refuse to take the one action that would drastically reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the USA: secure our southern border.
Securing the border would be expensive, but so is spending more and more money on efforts that aren’t particularly effective at curbing the drug epidemic. Let’s look at them. Education is necessary but not sufficient. Every addict in this country probably experienced drug awareness teaching in school. Treatment of addiction makes more sense than jailing addicts but it’s hard for a recovering addict to stay clean with drugs on every corner. Computerized prescription tracking may cut the number of “doctor shoppers” but it’s a serious intrusion by government into the doctor-patient relationship. How long before a “czar” with no medical training dictates medical treatments? What happens when those databases are hacked (and all databases seem to get hacked) and homes with legitimate medications become robbery targets? Law enforcement works hard to arrest dealers but our prisons are revolving doors for street-level drug dealers and the top drug lords are well hidden. Federal efforts at patrolling the border are overwhelmed by it’s sheer length and by political correctness.
An open border doesn’t just bring in drugs. It brings in illegal weapons, drug cartel members, and violent gangs like MS-13. Drug abuse causes a host of other social problems too. Sharing needles spreads diseases like Hep-C and AIDS. Addicts have a hard time holding jobs or caring for their families. They may steal to support their habit or become abusive. Drug gangs stage open warfare on city streets, often killing innocent bystanders, and anyone who thinks more gun laws will make these thugs surrender their weapons must believe in unicorns. The only way to put drug gangs out of business is to cut off their supply of drugs.
Heroin and cocaine don’t come from a workshop at the North Pole; they come from south of the border, and until that border is secured people will be dying and law enforcement officials will be working with one hand tied behind their backs.
Build the fence now, for the safety of our children and security of our nation.

Call Him “The Murderer”

As the media and liberals continue their anti-gun rhetoric in response to recent school shootings the media should look in the mirror and see how it contributes to random violence. A typical random mass shooter is a mentally ill loner who believes that society has marginalized him so he wants to do something so “everyone will know his name”. The media gives him his 15 minutes of fame plus many days thereafter.
We all knew the names of the killers after the Columbine attack. We heard them and saw their pictures for weeks. Is it any coincidence that so many “copycat” killers have studied the attack at Columbine to a point of obsession? Yes, the media needs to report the crime, to tell us his name, to show us his picture; and to tell us if he was motivated by mental illness, legal or illegal drug use, gang association, or radicalization; but after that focus on the victims, not the killer. Here’s my suggestion.
After the initial report, unless there’s a significant new development, don’t use his name or show his picture. Use a shadow picture and just call him “the murderer”. Don’t call him “shooter” or “sniper” or any term that sounds like a movie title, just call him “the murderer” or “the mass murderer”. Don’t make excuses for him because he is not the victim, those he shot are. Don’t give the next copycat wannabe any rationale for his irrational intent. If a parent gave weapons to a child whom they knew had mental issues or was simply too young to legally possess a firearm advocate for holding that parent responsible because in many states gun owners are legally responsible for securing guns from anyone in the home who shouldn’t have access to them.
Putting all the blame on the weapons is politically convenient but it oversimplifies the problem of violence. Guns don’t make people kill any more than cars make people drive drunk. People make that choice. Parents ignore signs of mental illness in their children, some schools don’t adequately confront bullying, friends ignore warnings posted on social media, drug companies push drugs with side-effect warnings of violent or suicidal tendencies, cities have gang problems they choose to ignore, and the mental health “system” (if it can be called that) is incapable of meeting the demand for services, particularly if inpatient care is needed.
Look back 50-60 years. People could buy guns, even by mail, without any controls yet the country didn’t have mass shootings like today. Regardless of it’s appearance a gun is still a tool that requires a human operator to function. What has changed are people, so people must be held responsible.

Disclaimer: I use “him” because recent mass murderers have been male but there’s no reason why a female couldn’t commit a similar act.

War on Whom?

Critics who decry “police militarization” over AR-15’s are missing the point.  The real issue isn’t the gear, it’s the military attitude.  When “to serve and protect” becomes “this is war” we have a problem.  Police need gear like body armor and night vision goggles.  They need modern semiautomatic rifles because the bad guys have them.  Armored vehicles can shield officers and civilians and even block dangerous criminals from escaping, and  their use is valid as long as the vehicles aren’t used solely for intimidating the public.  Police don’t need machine guns, hand grenades, or missiles because they’re not law enforcement tools, they’re weapons of war used to rapidly and indiscriminately kill large numbers of people.  Even their “flash-bang” grenades, which are incendiary devices, require caution.  They may be appropriate for ending a hostage crisis but they shouldn’t be the first resort in a nonviolent case.  SWAT teams were created to deal with violent situations but they’re increasingly being used for routine police operations that may actually increase the risk to the public.  As many as 80,000 SWAT deployments are estimated every year.  Does it make sense to send a SWAT team over a traffic violation?  Sadly these SWAT teams are sometimes sent to incorrect addresses with tragic consequences.  How much “collateral damage” is acceptable in this “war”?

Much of this war mentality comes from the “war on drugs”, a subject intentionally previously discussed.  No incident demonstrates the war mentality more than when police threw a flash-bang into a home from which there was no obvious threat.  They were after a low-level drug dealer (not a serial killer) and they relied on the word of a “snitch” instead of conducting the basic surveillance that would have told them that the dealer wasn’t there but a child was.  But no, they threw the grenade first, severely burning a child who must now suffer ongoing surgeries and disfiguration while the family suffers a 7-figure medical bill.  That wasn’t executing an arrest warrant, it was using a battlefield tactic where everyone in the house was “the enemy”.  The state must approve of battlefield tactics as it denies any responsibility for the child’s injuries.  Don’t blame the flash-bang, blame the war attitude that ordered it to be thrown, and don’t blame the child if he never trusts the police.

We’ve also seen unarmed drivers shot during routine traffic stops.  It’s a tense moment for the officer when the driver reaches in the glove box for the registration, so why not stop asking for the paper registration?  It’s obsolete!  When the officer “runs the plates” the computer shows (or should) the make and model of vehicle, registered owner, registration date, and whether the vehicle has warrants outstanding or has been reported stolen.  If the computer check is clean it’s probably just a traffic stop and if it isn’t the officer knows to be careful.  The tense moment is eliminated.

Let’s turn to Federal government militarization.  Unless the USDA is expecting an uprising of zombie chickens it needs to explain why it’s buying submachine guns.  Again, fully automatic weapons aren’t for routine law enforcement.  For that matter, why are so many government agencies suddenly  being armed and given law enforcement power?  The FDA and NASA have armed teams.  Even the “gun-free zone” Department of Education has armed agents.  The Federal government has law enforcement agencies including the FBI and US Marshals who, along with local police, could support these other agencies when needed.   What’s the purpose of this “civilian army”?  Since civilians can’t be deployed to fight overseas, who is this army going to fight, and why?

Why are so many unarmed suspects being shot multiple times? Don’t all lives matter?

Spoils of War

Has the “War on Drugs” become a secret war on private property?  This “war” is a war with vague rules of engagement and little obvious success in reducing drug use.  It offers the rather perverse incentive that law enforcement can collect “spoils of war” in the form of property confiscation, even if it harms innocent people.  A wife might not know her husband is dealing drugs but she and her children could wind up homeless if the house is raided.  The property might even be destroyed in the raid, and even if property is destroyed during a “wrong address” raid the government has no liability to compensate innocent victims.  You might not know a friend is dealing drugs but if he’s caught in your car you could lose it.  A person traveling with a large amount of cash can find it seized “on suspicion” without other evidence of drug-related activity, and getting it back means hiring a lawyer to file an expensive lawsuit.  Why do laws provide for spoils of war under the name of “Civil Asset Forfeiture”?  Even the military can’t loot captured territory.

Parts of these laws also seek to stop money laundering by requiring banks to report deposits over $10,000.  The law also prohibits “structuring” by making regular deposits of lesser amounts to avoid that reporting rule.  If the IRS sees regular deposits into an account of somewhat lesser amounts it can confiscate the account without due process and without any evidence of criminal activity.  It is then up to the depositor to prove innocence rather than the government to prove guilt.  A simple reality is that small businesses make frequent deposits of lesser amounts just because they don’t want to keep a lot of money around to entice robbers.  Another reality is that, thanks to pervasive drug abuse, a significant portion of our currency is contaminated with drug residue that can be used as evidence against innocent people.  Can’t those high paid desk jockeys figure that out or are they just enjoying a power trip?

A fundamental principle of our legal system is “innocent until proven guilty”. The drug war shouldn’t be exempt from that concept.