Civil asset forfeiture is the power of government to seize property suspected of being produced by, or involved in, criminal activity based only on the suspicion of such activity, even before being charged or convicted of a crime. There is no “due process” protection as spelled out in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, specifically protection against the arbitrary denial of “life, liberty, or property” by the government.
Abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has become a real problem in America, and it has created one of the greatest threats to property rights imaginable from a government that continues to grow out-of-control, which is one reason statements and actions taken by Donald Trump last week are extremely troubling.
During a White House meeting with sheriffs from around the country, the subject of asset forfeiture was mentioned by a Texas sheriff who apparently loves being able to seize personal property without dealing with that whole “innocent until proven guilty” constitutional crap. When the sheriff told Trump that a Texas senator had the audacity to propose a law that would require a suspect be convicted of a crime before property could be seized, Trump replied, “Who is the Senator? Do you want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career.”
Besides the troubling fact that Trump expressed his willingness to “destroy” someone who dared to hold a position on the issue contrary to his on, his support of asset seizure laws–along with his well-established ignorance of the Constitution–should be a grave concern to freedom-loving Americans everywhere. Particularly now that Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as the new Attorney General.
Sessions loves asset forfeiture as a crime-fighting tool, and in a series of Executive Orders issued by Trump after Sessions had been sworn in, Trump gave the new Attorney General the keys to the “police state” kingdom when he included the following language in Section 2, Paragraph (f) of the order: Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking (emphasis mine):
(f) pursue and support additional efforts to prevent the operational success of transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations within and beyond the United States, to include prosecution of ancillary criminal offenses, such as immigration fraud and visa fraud, and the seizure of the implements of such organizations and forfeiture of the proceeds of their criminal activity.
I get the intent of such language as it applies to terrorism and illegal immigration. But as happens with nearly everything government touches, the unintended consequences are ripe for the picking, and with Sessions being a fan of asset forfeiture, the odds of those consequences being realized are high.
It’s also important to remember that liberals in both parties have expressed a willingness to abandon the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in order to advance another cause near and dear to their hearts: gun control.
There is good news however. In response Trump’s flippant attitude towards the Constitution and those who feel that civil asset forfeiture is a bad deal, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has announced that he will introduce a bill ending the unconstitutional practice.
With the Republican party morphing into the Trumplican party, any such legislation will face serious resistance from Congress and the White House. But this is a battle we must fight . . . and we must fight it to win!
David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative, your source for opinion that’s politically incorrect and always “right.” His articles can also be found on RedState.com.
His daily radio commentary is nationally syndicated with Salem Radio Network and can be heard on stations across America.