Monday, June 27, 2005


Worse than Kelo vs. City of New London

A lot of people are upset at the Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. City of New London which upholds greatly expanded abilities of the gov’t to seize people’s property using eminent domain. At least when the gov’t uses eminent domain to take people’s property, they receive compensation. Many people do not realize that there is another way that the gov’t can take their property without having to pay any compensation. All the gov’t has to do to seize your money or property is for a law enforcement officer to suspect that it has been used in a crime. That’s right, you don’t have to be convicted of a crime, or have a warrant issued for you, or even have a judge issue the order. A law enforcement officer can just take something from you. If you don’t believe something like that can be possible in America, read this news story, or this, or this, or these cases of innocent citizens having property taken by suspicious or greedy law enforcement agencies. Remember any news stories where boats and cars are seized from drug dealers on the spot without prosecuting them? The same law can, and sometimes is, used on innocent people since there is no trial required to insure that the victim of the seizure is really guilty. And since the seizing agency often gets to keep what they take, there is a strong incentive for them to err on the side of taking stuff.

A victim can sue to get their property back, but since they aren’t charged with a crime (technically only their property is), there is no presumption of innocence. They have to prove they deserve to get it back. And, of course, sometimes it can cost more to sue the gov’t to reclaim your rightful property than the value of what they stole.

As long as the congress is taking up the issue of constitutional amendments, they should make one to strengthen the 5th amendment protections against being deprived of property without due process. Certainly we can expect many gov’t agencies that use asset forfeiture to complain that requiring due process before taking money or property from suspicious people would make their job harder. Asset forfeiture laws allow them to punish people they believe are guilty without having to go through the difficult work of getting proof and putting together a case that will stand up in court. Well, if we wanted to make their job easier we could also just allow them to imprison people without trials as well. Heck, why don’t we just let them kill people they don’t like. As long as they say that deep down in their hearts they know the person deserved it, should that be enough? Those changes would make their jobs really easy. Obviously we don’t do these things because we would rather make the jobs of the police harder than to give up our rights. What is true for life and liberty should be true for property as well. Until congress fixes this problem, you can protect yourself by making sure you don’t have any money or nice things on your person when you are around any law enforcement officers.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?