Is our Constitution being increasingly ignored? Look no further than the power law enforcement now has to seize your money and property under civil asset forfeiture.
Under it in 2014 alone, the Feds took more property from citizens than burglars did, and millions more were taken in by state and local police. The DEA’s money seizures since 2007 exceed $4 billion. The Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund has ballooned to $28 billion.
So what’s the problem—it’s taken from bad guys, right? Once, perhaps, but no longer. Neither conviction nor even charges are required for money or property to be taken and kept. In the case of the DEA’s $4 billion, for example, 81 percent—or $3.2 billion—was taken with no charges filed, no convictions, or judicial review—the very definition of innocent. Between 1997 and 2013, 87 percent of the Department of Justice’s seizures were not based on criminal charges or convictions. If you’re skeptical and don’t believe that you are vulnerable, just Google “civil forfeiture.”
The Fifth Amendment demands that we shall not be deprived of property without due process. So 13 concerned states (not Arkansas) moved to authorize forfeiture only upon a conviction. But our new Attorney General Jeff Sessions just issued a directive that overrides that constraint.
The public, editorial boards and columnists seem little concerned. Letters to Senators Boozman and Cotton and my Congressman Womack are answered with noncommittal mush. Our representatives could act, but they will care only when we do.
RANDALL WARD Garfield