Civil Asset Forfeiture – Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Perhaps no tenant is stronger in the foundation of the American criminal legal system than that one is innocent until proven guilty.  Unfortunately, the practice of civil asset forfeiture – a practice that is expanding across America by local policing agencies – is used to take the belongings of individuals and not giving them back to the individuals without those individual proving that they are not involved in some sort of criminal enterprise.  Unfortunately, many times it is more costly for the individuals to hire attorneys to prove that the assets that have been taken by the police are not criminal in nature.  So the police and local government agencies pocket the proceeds of the seized goods, which can include cash, cars and homes, and use those proceeds for their own ends – even if it has nothing to do with policing.

Now this all seems fishy and completely unconstitutional.  Isn’t there a law to the effect that someone is innocent until proven guilty?  Yes, there is!  That is perhaps the biggest problem with civil asset forfeiture.  Instead of the government proving that the assets seized were part of a crime – that the person is guilty, the onus is placed upon the individual to show that they are innocent.  There is a perverse incentive for cops to keep any seized property for their own benefit and screw the innocent people that have had the property seized.  Civil asset forfeiture completely turns the the fundamentals of the American Legal system on its head.

To show how civil asset forfeiture works, here are two videos showing how civil asset forfeiture is a racket that is used by police and government agencies across America.  The first video is from the Institute for Justice, the second is from the Daily Show which did an expose on the practice and how it is such a lucrative practice for police departments and a difficulty for the individuals who are unfortunately caught in the web of civil asset forfeiture.  We must stand up to civil asset forfeiture and fight for our rights as American citizens to retain our property until proven guilty, not be required to prove that we are innocent.

 

America’s Prison Problem

America has a problem with prison over-incarceration.  We incarcerate more people than any other country (excluding North Korea for which we do not have accurate statistics).  Incarceration affects us all in many different ways; some personal with friends or family incarcerated.  Even indirectly we spend massive amounts of money incarcerating individuals.  Many prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.  Until we admit as a nation that the War on Drugs has been an abject failure we will continue to spend billions of dollars not only enforcing laws for non-violent offenses, abuse civil rights and cause terror to minorities – who are disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

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John Oliver’s brilliantly funny “Last Week Tonight” had a brutally honest but ultimately sad look at the prison industrial complex that has taken over America.  There has been a move toward private-prisons.  And although I usually am in favor of almost anything the private industry can do as opposed to the government, strict requirements that these private prisons are guaranteed a certain amount of prisoners to fill their institutions, the privatization of America’s prisons needs to be addressed in a better way than guaranteeing income for the private prison industry.

Please take the time to watch the segment from “Last Week Tonight” on the prison problem in America.  It is a sad and brutally honest look at the issues involved with the American Prison Industrial Complex.

Happy 4th of July from The Law Office of Zachary Bushatz

The Law Office of Zachary Bushatz wishes you a happy 4th of July weekend.  I take liberty seriously at my law office and in my personal life.  Whether it is liberty from the tyranny of government enforced criminal laws or liberating yourself from debt, I can help you gain independence from whatever shackles of oppression are holding you back.Thomas Jefferson

One of my favorite quotes regarding liberty is from Thomas Jefferson who said “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”  Although we must respect the rights of others, we are entitled to liberty naturally and must understand that the law is often imposed by those in power to keep hold on their position.  If you have had your liberty encumbered, please feel free to contact me and I will help you regain your liberty that you rightly deserve.

Re-Establishing Credit After Bankruptcy

USA Today Weekend published an article today on how one can go about re-establishing their credit after filing for bankruptcy.  It has some good suggestions and shows that filing Bankruptcy next exitbankruptcy is not the end of obtaining credit, but a way to start fresh from overwhelming debt.  Below is the article in full:

Veteran personal finance journalist Robert Powell answers questions from USA WEEKEND readers. His column runs Tuesdays and Thursdays at usaweekend.com.

After a bankruptcy, how can I start new credit?

— Magali Trujillo, Houston

There’s plenty you can do to rebuild credit. But there’s a right way and wrong to go about it, says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

First: Put your financial house in order. Get a copy of your credit report for free from AnnualCreditReport.com and deal with any outstanding debts or inaccuracies. Next, create a budget, track your income and expenses, and spend money only on what’s important and essential. Also, create a record of your assets and liabilities, a balance sheet. And don’t forget to set aside money for an emergency fund equal to at least one month’s salary, if not more.

Once you’ve done all that, you can start rebuilding credit by applying for a credit card. But it needs to be the card that is right for your situation, says Cunningham. Research cards at Bankrate.com to see which banks offer cards to people with poor credit records.

You may decide that a secured card is a good place to start. Look for a secured card with the best rates, lowest fees and reports to the credit bureau. A secured credit card, as the name implies, is an account secured by a deposit made to the issuer, says Cunningham. After you’ve developed a history of making payments in a responsible manner, you can apply for an unsecured card.

Other suggestions from Cunningham and the NFCC: Take out a small personal loan from a bank or credit union. Consider a co-signer, if needed. Don’t apply for too much credit at once, but do apply for a variety of credit types. Check out NFCC.org for more tips.