I watched a clip from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver tonight where he discussed Civil Forfeiture. Civil Forfeiture is when police forces seize goods from citizens without charging the individuals with a crime. Citizens do not need to be charged with a crime, because it’s not they who are on trial, it’s their stuff. Examples of law suits include “United States vs. Eight Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($8,850) in United States Currency” and “United States of America, v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins”.
According to Scott Bullock, a Senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, “your property is guilty until you prove it innocent”.
Although law suits can bring some of the money back to the innocent individuals it is seized from, the majority of it can often be retained by the police force. This gives police forces a very corrupt and backward sense of entitlement, and permits questions like “is there any large amounts of cash in the vehicle?”, “are there any large sums of money over $5,000 in cash in the vehicle?”, and “how much money you got?” when conducting highway arrests. It basically allows cops to be grade school bullies and allows them to steal citizens’ lunch money.
Oliver’s clip looks at an example from a county in Tennessee where the authorities are able to keep 100% of all moneys they seize during highway arrests. An example they show is of George Rebe, who had $20,000 seized – which they claimed to be drug money. Rebe had clear proof that the money he was transporting was for a car he was purchasing on Ebay. An interview with the highway enforcement officer is particularly troubling:
News anchor: “and did he tell you he was trying to buy a car?”
Officer: “he did”
Anchor: “but you did not include that in your report”
Officer: “if it’s not in there, I didn’t put it in there”
Anchor: “so why would you leave that out?”
*another long pause*
Officer: “I don’t know”
This example is just one of many, but it amazes me how much entitlement police forces have. Police forces seizing property of innocent citizens is just another example of police brutality, and the injustices of law authority is incredible to me. A YouTube clip of John Oliver’s show is pasted below.