Civil forfeiture is a hot button topic among people who love liberty. Why? Because it’s one of the most obvious and blatant abuses of government power, and, really, it’s done without any justifiable cause.
Now, if you’re not already familiar with civil forfeiture, wikipedia defines it as “a legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.”
Think about that for a moment. With civil forfeiture, you don’t have to be charged with a crime for the government to steal your property. They just have to be able to say that they think that you may have committed a crime. No proof needed, and, as you may know, if the government takes your stuff, it can be very difficult to get back.
Fortunately, though, people are fighting back and getting results. A recent case in Florida is encouraging. John Vibes writes,
Dade police are being ordered to return nearly $20,000 that was taken from a woman, who works as a stripper in Miami, and her husband during a traffic stop where an illegal search was performed. The police department is also responsible for the couples legal fees, which amounts to more than $3,000.
Lizmixell Batista was able to argue in court that the cash seized in the car were tips that she earned dancing at the Cheetah Gentleman’s Club in Hallandale Beach. Batista says that she was on her way to the bank when she was pulled over with her husband Ras Cates.
Now, admittedly, $20,000 is a lot of cash to be carrying around (I can’t say that I’ve ever had that much in hand at one time), so maybe the police could be forgiven for being a bit suspicious, but, the fact of the matter is that they had no proof that the money was obtained from illegal activities (like selling drugs). In other words, the police had no right to take the money in the first place because they were taking it based on pure speculation.
It’s sad, really, when your local government looks for ways to steal from you, and civil forfeiture is exactly that: stealing. Hopefully, though, this case in Florida will begin to set a precedent which will spread across the country to stop this evil practice.