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Our Drug Laws Literally Allow Police to Steal From Innocent People

Submitted by smorgan on

I received this email through the Flex Your Rights website a few weeks back and found it quite disturbing, though perfectly typical and unsurprising by drug war standards:

I'm a retired police lieutenant from a large midwestern city. Prior to my retirement my department, like so many others, saw dollar signs when new laws in response to the "drug war" (gawd, what a mistake THAT has turned out to be) allowed law enforcement to seize property with either flimsy or non-existent probable cause.

Special police units were posted on the expressways leading into the city with instructions to stop as many cars as possible, search them and the occupants, and if anyone had more than a few dollars, SEIZE IT.

Our command staff gleefully reported to us that the burden of proof was on the citizen to prove that the money was NOT drug proceeds, and since the amount of money seized would often be less than the amount that the citizen would have to spend to sue us, that we could be assured of keeping the bulk of the money.

I was flabbergasted. To make things worse, part of my yearly performance rating as a police lieutenant was based on how much money and other real property, such as cars, that my troops seized. On my instructions, my troops never seized a dime.

Turning law enforcement officers into bounty hunters is one of the most tragic mistakes this country has ever made.

Keep up the good work.
Lieutenant Harry Thomas (ret.)
I can't verify any of this, but I really don't need to. Lt. Thomas describes the asset forfeiture epidemic that corrupted law enforcement agencies throughout the nation, necessitating the formation of Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR) in 1992 and the passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. And now that forfeiture laws have been "reformed," police have since felt free to continue confiscating property under the most ludicrous circumstances because the drug war says it's ok.

Lt. Thomas's story provides a particularly disturbing picture of police officers being commanded by their superiors to operate as an extortion ring. The recognition that citizens would have a difficult time proving their property "innocent" demonstrates an unconscionable willingness to seize property from law-abiding citizens. Put simply, the behavior described above is theft in both effect and intent.

Make what you will of this particular account, but if you think that one could implement forfeiture laws such as ours without provoking this exact behavior, then I dare you to put your life savings in a briefcase and drive around Indiana consenting to police searches.

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