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.