Home American Principles Civil Asset Forfeiture: It is Illegal and Anti-American

Civil Asset Forfeiture: It is Illegal and Anti-American

Graphic by Lisa Merklin| The Virginian-Pilot

The government of the United States, and all of its sub-divisions are prohibited by the Constitution from taking the property of a person without due process or just compensation.  That’s the law.  It’s in our Constitution.  It is one of the carefully bargained for first 10 Amendments, known to every sentient, lucid, literate, American as our Bill of Rights.

Here is the pertinent part of the Fifth Amendment to our US Constitution:

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.

Some Jack-wagon lawyer came along and convinced governments everywhere that the Fifth Amendment doesn’t mean what it clearly says.  Mr. Trump isn’t a conservative, but he can certainly stand up for Americans of every political stripe by putting an end to civil asset forfeiture in the federal government immediately.

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?  If you are unfamiliar with this practice, you will not believe my description of it.  You will think I am exaggerating.  I am not.

Under Civil Asset Forfeiture laws, police can seize cash and other valuables from American citizens if the police think or suspect that the goods might be part of, or the booty from, crime.  They don’t have to charge anyone with a crime; they just take their stuff.

Do you know how you get your property back Mr. and Mrs. America?  You go to court and prove the stuff wasn’t part of a crime.  That burden is on you.

To recap … the police … armed with guns, on behalf of the government, take your stuff by force without charging you with any crime, and then you go and try to convince the government to give it back.

The American people have overthrown a king for less.

How … how by God did this ever come to be … you might be asking?  Great question.  Let me explain now why Americans hate lawyers, and why American conservatives and our founders had a deep, unapologetic, distrust of government and its ability and propensity to increase the scope of its own powers, and thereby limit liberty.

The “legal” theory behind government theft of your property without due process of law is this:  The legal action is “civil” and not “criminal,” and the government brings the action against the property, not a person.

You quite literally can’t make that up.

By the way, my art, my oriental rugs, or my hair dryer aren’t people, and they don’t have standing to sue or be sued.  Property belongs to people, and when the government seizes a person’s property, it is taking by force the property of citizen.  The government can style the case in re: Barcalounger if it likes, but it is a case about government theft from American citizens … and only citizens, not property, have rights.

The lawyers who concocted this for your government should have their law licenses taken away … without due process of law … and preferably with no mechanism for their return.

I know every justification and use put forth for this criminal government racket.  Likewise, I know that many times, maybe even most times, the seized items are illicit goods used as part of a criminal organization.

Hard facts make bad law, and this law is bad. (See Clarence Thomas’s statement on Civil Forfeiture in Leonard v. Texas, near the bottom.)

Civil asset forfeiture puts police officers in a terrible position, seizing the goods of Americans. Additionally, the incentives of this law are all wrong.  Police departments are heavily incentivized to engage in this practice because the seized goods effectively become local booty if not successfully reclaimed. For many Americans, they have neither the skills, money, or ability to reclaim these goods.  Still other Americans don’t try because they do not wish to be marked by the police or the government by trying to do so.

Americans should not have to prove their property is rightfully theirs. The burden of seizure is not on Americans; It is on the governments that want to seize our goods. That’s how America works, whether one is a committed constitutional conservative, or a devout, hard-core lefty.

Yesterday, Attorney General Sessions re-affirmed the practice of civil asset forfeiture and released updated federal guidelines.  As a conservative, I had hoped for more form him.  As an American, I demand more from my government.

Americans of every single political background should heed the call to work together on this issue.  We cannot allow this practice to continue.

Just a few weeks ago we shot off fireworks and celebrated a day some foolishly call “the 4th of July.”  It’s not.  It’s Independence Day.  Indeed, I wrote about the need for liberty in order to have real independence.  The essence of liberty is to be secure in our person and property.  For those who may have forgotten, an unjust and tyrannical king inspired these words about his government:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

It is time to alter the conduct of this government, lest we be forced to abolish it.

Seizing property by force of a gun, without due process or just compensation is anti-American, it’s is illegal, and it needs to stop.  Those truths, should be self-evident. Civil asset forfeiture must end.

Richard Kelsey

Author: Richard Kelsey

Richard Kelsey is the Editor-in-Chief of Committed Conservative.

He is an Attorney, a former Assistant Law School Dean, Law Professor, and Virginia state court law clerk. Dean Kelsey was also the CEO of a technology company specializing in combating cyber-fraud. He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, radio and on TV.

Rich graduated from George Mason law school, clerked for the Arlington Circuit Court, and later joined an AM LAW top 10 law firm practicing commercial litigation. He left the firm to be counsel and CEO to a consulting firm, rising to CEO of Turiss, LLC, a technology firm specializing in computer forensics, digital investigations, and fighting cyber-fraud through civil intel services and new technologies. Upon the sale of the company, Kelsey returned to Mason Law, where in the years before his return, he both taught at the school and served as President of the Law Alumni Association. Kelsey was the Assistant Dean for Management and Planning.

At Mason, Dean Kelsey taught legal writing and analysis and an advanced litigation seminar. In 2014 he was elected by the graduating class as the faculty speaker at their graduation. While serving the former George Mason Law, Kelsey conceived of, planned, and brought to fruition Mason’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, known as CPIP.

Rich has appeared on radio, TV, and in print hundreds of times as both a legal expert and political and legal commentator. He provided the legal analysis for all stages of the Bob McDonnell trial and appeal for numerous outlets including NPR and WMAL. He writes on occasion for the American Spectator and CNSNews.com. He returned to private practice in September of 2016, and he is working on a book/expose on legal education.

In his free time, Rich is part of the baseball mafia of Northern Virginia, serving on numerous boards and as a little league and travel baseball coach.

Rich has many opinions, and they are his own. His Twitter handle is @richkelsey.