President Trump, a Texas Legislator, and Seizure of Property

As Valentine’s Day comes to an end, let us discuss the love that President Trump gave to one of Texas’ legislators one week ago over the controversial civil asset forfeiture policy. After Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County told the president that the lawmaker attempted to have a bill passed in the state’s legislature requiring suspects to be convicted of a crime before having their possessions stolen, the president’s response was cold (Cupid’s accuracy is not 100%). Although his comment about ruining the career of the legislator was made in jest, it does show the possible direction that this administration may go when it comes to law enforcement and protecting civil liberties.

People reading this may shrug off this policy as no big deal because it is supposed to hinder the activities of criminal organizations and deny them access to assets that they should not have, however, what should be discussed is the constitutional issue that arises. The problem with permitting police to seize property before a trial is that it denies the due process mandated in the Fifth Amendment. The Sixth Amendment describes the process that is guaranteed for a trial, and without such procedures, the government (whether federal, state, county, or municipal) does not have the right to seize property. The government may issue warrants (under the Fourth Amendment) upon probable cause and by a civilian judge, but the warrant must specifically describe where the search is to be conducted and who or what is to be taken. Any other seizure of property violates the Constitution, and there is the potential for law enforcement to take property from innocent people.

Another aspect of this policy is the drug war in general. Not only does the government think it has the right to tell people what they may or may not consume and whether or not they can harm their own bodies, but it also spends large sums of money in attempting to enforce such laws. Plus, enacting laws on drugs only pushes the substances to the underground and turns drug-users into criminals when they do not really need to be in that category. The United States has the most people in prison of any other country in the world (almost one-quarter of the world’s prison population), with much of it being from the drug war.

Although victims of the seized property can challenge the seizure in court if it can be proven that the possessions are not related to a crime, people should not have to file civil lawsuits to get back their money, houses, or other possessions in a sort of “guilty until proven innocent” policy. This can also be seen as a money-making operation as police departments receive billions of dollars in profit from asset seizures. As Valentine’s Day passes, perhaps we should show love to any of the Republicans and Democrats who support forcing the government to convict people of a crime before becoming captivated by the property.

For more information on how the United States government uses intimidation and violence against American citizens and other countries, please check out my book, The Global Bully.
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Published on February 15, 2017 13:32
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