Cash Has No RIghts

As an American citizen you have rights but your cash does not.

There’s a little known law on the books that allows the police to take your cash legally under the law of civil forfeiture. This law allows law enforcement officers to take assets from a person suspected of involvement in a crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the property owner with wrongdoing.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

This is a civil, as opposed to, criminal procedure. As such, the dispute is between law enforcement and property…like a pile of cash, which is suspected of having been involved in a crime. To recover the seized property, an owner must prove the cash or asset was not involved in criminal activity. He or she has to prove a negative!  While civil asset forfeiture was originally designed to stop drug dealers and counterfeiters but has morphed into another government Bohemoth that literally allows the government to steal your cash and property.

It works like this. A police officer pulls you for an alleged driving violation. During the stop he gets your permission to search your car. During the search, he finds cash in an amount above the “norm” that he thinks you should be carrying. At this point, he seizes your cash and turns it in to his police superiors. Usually, he lets you go. Even if you are not charged with any violation, and have done nothing wrong, the police can and often do retain your cash.

It’s at this point, as you get back into your car without your money and drive away, completely innocent, that your battle begins.

In order to retrieve this cash, you are going to have to hire a lawyer, petition the court and then prove that the “excess cash” you had was not being used for or as a result of illegal activity. Our justice system is based on the notion of innocence until proven guilty; but, in this scenario your cash is guilty and the onus is on you to prove its innocence.

Good luck with that.

This is not some minor event that it taking place. Since 2008, the government has seized over 3 billion in assets from U.S citizens whose only crime was having cash on them at the time they were stopped by the police.  If the citizen is unable or unsuccessful at getting his or her  money back, the local government gets to keep 80% of the proceeds and the federal government getting a kickback of 20%.

If this sounds like a shake down or something out of a script from The Sopranos, well it is. A shakedown, that is.  Not a script. In this racket, the “mafia” wears blue uniforms and has the ability to pull citizenry over at will. It is no secret within the gaming industry that gamblers have to be very careful when driving the outskirts of Las Vegas as “highway robbers” abound on the roadways. The robbers being police officers. The police know that if they can nab the right car, they might be able to capture a gambler with his winnings. For example, in 2014 Tan Nguyen was pulled over on a Nevada highway for going 3 mph over the speed limit.  Police found over $50,000 in cash from his winnings at the casino which were confiscated on the spot.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This practice of seizing money without criminal charges, and any legislative or judicial laws that enforce it, need to be abolished immediately in the spirit of the Constitution and in the interest of preserving liberty.  No one’s cash or property is safe as long as this remains standard and sanctioned practice. The whole notion seems bizarre in light of the fact that our country was founded on principles of due process and property rights. The fact is that no one should be comfortable with a system that allows law enforcement to seize personal property without a finding of guilt or, in many cases, even leveling a criminal charge.

However, currently it seems Civil Forfeiture trumps the Constitution. It is big business for both local and federal governments and, like any business, the “operators” of that business are going to protect what they’ve built.

But what about we the people? Have we become so weak or willfully blind that the police now steal from us with impunity knowing that we will do nothing? Lest we and they forget, police are public servants paid by the citizens they are sworn to protect. With Civil Forfeiture they are double dipping… and… if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors, this second bite of the apple (our money) is an unauthorized one that is a violation not only of the Constitution but our will as well.

It will take widespread public disclosure and civil disobedience against this license to steal if we can even hope to put an end to what can only be called a government devised, sanctioned and criminal con.




The Police as the New Tax Force

I grew up in New York City in the 1970’s on the Upper West Side of New York City. The area was made up on mini enclaves of immigrant communities, housing projects, middle class workers, and the wealthy all crammed together. Within a twenty block radius of where I lived, the Irish lived to the south in Hells Kitchen, the Latinos to the north and the housing projects right by my doorstep.

nypdI went to grammar school on the East Side. I had to take two buses to get home at night and it required my being able to safely, and sometimes not so safely past many of those enclaves in order to get home. Given that I was small and traveled alone, there were always packs of predators around ready to pounce. Clearly, I survived and am thankful for all those “colorful” and “educational” experiences.

Since the city was a dangerous and exciting place, the police were there to keep the peace, settle disputes when they arose, and generally keep things from getting totally out of control.

All that changed in the 1990’s when Rudy Guilani became Mayor of New York City. New Yorker’s had gotten fed up with the crime. The city had become a dangerous place. Under Guilani’s Administration, the police came out in force and became a very  visible and effective presence. The general philosophy of policing was based on “The broken window theory’ which is that criminals will commit more crimes when they see that a neighborhood is not being maintained. So where there is more trash and broken windows, more crime tends to occur.

The NYPD began arresting people for littering, jay walking, public drunkenness and a slew of petty crimes. The city got cleaned up quickly, citizens were happy and the safety and overall environment of the city markedly improved. But it didn’t stop there.  Cameras were installed all over the place to monitor the city. Red light cameras were installed to automatically ticket drivers; stop and frisk procedures were implemented whereby the police could stop randomly frisk anyone if they looked suspicious. While the events of 9/11 accelerated this process, NYC took notice that good policing was good business as well.

The city Administrators realized they could make good money by handing out tickets. Over time, this evolved to the police having been given quotas whereby they have to write so many tickets per month. The original goal of cleaning up the city morphed into something else: a new way to extract money from its citizens.

In my final years living  in NYC, I was stopped twice for driving a suspicious vehicle (I drive a minivan), received two red light infractions (by a camera) and two parking tickets. Tickets in NYC are not cheap at $200 per fine. But NYC is not the only city that has taken notice of this revenue windfall. Cities and states all over the country have gotten involved in this scam.

All of these municipalities are desperate for money and the politicians know they can’t raise taxes. SO, They now have de facto taxes, whereby the police are “encouraged” via quotas to harass the citizens…the same ones that employ them.

In the city that I live in now, there are cops everywhere giving tickets for the most minor infractions. The police no longer have the support of the average citizen as they know the police are no longer there to serve them.  People have come to loathe the police as they have effectively become a new taxing authority.

The police motto is “to protect and to serve” but who do they protect and who do they serve? Clearly they now serve the government as a way to generate revenue…with an apparent ever decreasing duty to protect individual citizens. There have been numerous cases throughout the country where the police failed to respond in an appropriate manner to help individuals and the courts have always ruled that the police have no obligation to any individual…only to the public at large (see here).

What the police and politicians don’t seem to understand is the enmity and resentment that has grown between the police and the populace. The people now view police as an arm of the I.R.S. They know that if they truly needed their help, the police are under no duty or obligation to help. With the courts backing up this approach where do we go to find those people whose job it is “to protect and to serve?”

One cannot serve two masters and the police are no exception. Government or the populace…only time will tell.