You are “innocent until proven guilty” in America, with one big exception: Under civil forfeiture laws, police don’t have to prove that a crime has actually been committed in order to seize your property. And once your boat or car is stolen by your government, the burden falls to you to prove your stuff is innocent.
Police departments are getting rich from the loot they seize from folks never convicted of a crime. As the Institute for Justice argues, civil forfeiture laws provide an ugly incentive for police “to enforce the laws in ways designed to maximize forfeiture income rather than to minimize crime.”
Now a challenge has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Alvarez v. Smith concerns six people whose property was seized by Chicago police, though three of them were never charged with a crime.
The Institute for Justice, the Cato Institute, the ACLU and the Reason Foundation have filed amicus briefs arguing that due process was denied.
In favor of more free-wheeling civil forfeiture are a number of state governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other groups representing government entities that spend the proceeds from the seized loot.
During oral arguments, Judge Sonia Sotomayor asked the pertinent question, “You take the car and then you investigate?”
Backwards justice is no justice at all.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.