Cops Can Take Your Stuff Without Convicting You of Anything

USA By: Tad Lumpkin 10:38 am

(Vice)- Last week, the Washington Post released the results of an excellent—albeit alarming—investigation into the use of asset forfeiture in the United States. What is “asset forfeiture,” in plain English? Essentially: cops stealing your shit with little to no proof of its connection to a crime. With the backing of the Department of Justice, and the excuse of the war on drugs (and now the war on terror), property connected even vaguely to a crime—whether one is ever convicted of said crime or not—can be seized and auctioned off by local police, earning them a tidy profit without the hassle of a trial.

Carrying too much cash in the eyes of law enforcement is reason enough for that cash to be seized. As the Post uncovered, since 2001, $4.2 billion has been taken from members of the public under the Justice Department’s “equitable sharing program.” Not only was there no trial in these cases, there wasn’t no search warrant. Only one out of six people whose property was taken bothered to fight, presumably due to the enormous legal fees involved. The state agreed to give back property in 41 percent of the cases where people did challenge the theft. However, it often took months, sometimes years, to get the property back.

The Philadelphia Police Department, in particular, seems to be engaging in asset forfeiture with great relish, so much so that it’s provoked the filing of a class action lawsuit from the libertarian Institute for Justice (IJ) against District Attorney R. Seth Williams and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

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SOURCE: Cops Can Take Your Stuff Without Convicting You of Anything

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