Asset forfeiture is a dull name for a shocking little-known legal device that allows law enforcement officials to take your cash and property — without a warrant or criminal charges of any kind — and keep most of the proceeds.
That’s right: they can do this even if you have not committed a crime. Even if you’ve never been charged with one.
The only way you can get back your money or property is to go through an exhaustive legal process to prove that your property was legally acquired. Yes, in essence, you must prove to the government that you are not guilty. And the process is so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that most don’t attempt it.
Even if you think you know about this vile practice, a new report by the Washington Post entitled “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes” has uncovered new information that will shock you.
Among the Post’s findings:
* Asset forfeiture has risen dramatically in the past decade. Thousands of Americans have had billions of dollars stolen by police — again, without being charged or convicted of a crime.
* The federal government has given millions of dollars to non-government organizations to train police officers in aggressive use of asset forfeiture. An estimated 50,000-plus police officers have had such training in the last decade.
* Says the Post: “Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of ‘highway interdiction’ to departments across the country.
“One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop. …
“A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing ‘trophy shots’ of money and drugs…”
* “Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. ‘All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,’ Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt. Hain’s book calls for ‘turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.’”
There’s much more in the Washington Post’s multi-part series, now online.