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Sort by: Popularity (highest number first) Popularity (highest number left) Price: Low to High Price: High to Low Rating: High to Low Reviews: High to LowIt used to be fashionable for the wealthy to hire lawyers to defend them from being charged for something they owned. The argument going was that you could write something in such a way that it did not imply the ownership of any objects associated with the word. In that way, the owner would never be identified even if the laws were enforced.
This argument, as it turns out, is still valid for the federal government. Under a new proposed “federal forfeiture” law that is getting a lot of attention, the federal government is allowed to charge people with a crime without charging them with owning something, without a trial, and without a conviction.
Congress’s proposed forfeiture bill would allow federal law enforcement to take private property and use it to pursue “racketeering and other crimes,” and it would allow the government to take “property with a low market value.”
This proposal, first reported last week by The Huffington Post, comes with a set of special legal protections that would make it nearly impossible to prove that the feds are engaged in illegal behavior. For instance, an owner’s name and address would not be required for federal forfeiture, and the person or entity accused in a criminal forfeiture action would not be required to submit a document to a grand jury that could be used to incriminate him.
If enacted, this new program would expand on the government’s efforts to circumvent local government controls regarding the seizure, leasing and sales of assets. So, you can be charged with a crime without actually owning anything, even if you were the one who sold the property.
The reason is simple: the feds have found that these seizures are a cheaper, more effective way to fight crime than putting someone behind bars.
According to a study by the Institute for Justice, government seizure of assets — cash, cars, real estate, stocks and bonds — “can reduce crime rates by as much as 30 percent.” While not every seizure is a successful move by the government, it is a tactic that has been very effective. Since 2000, federal agencies have seized more than $4.1 billion in assets.
In some states, the feds can go even further. In California, for instance, it is perfectly legal to seize your property, sell it and use the proceeds for drug enforcement if you don’t pay the state back. If you own less than $1 million in cash, for instance, then you are considered a “high risk asset.” And you’ll get a cash seizure notice without even ever being charged with a crime.
The Justice Department reports that federal law enforcement seized a whopping $2.5 billion at auction in February alone. The most seized assets were cars, but also include large sums of cash and large amounts of real estate. The government has seized a stunning $2.2 billion in cash in the first three months of this year alone, despite the fact that it took less than $400 million in cash in all of 2011.
The feds say that the money is being used to track down drug kingpins; it is, in essence, being used to find drug dealers for police to bust. If the cash was used for criminal purposes,