Greedy Governments Seize Money and Property

You may have heard that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is pimping out the TSA. I think that's an accurate assessment. 

It seems a watchdog organization has discovered at least one instance (so far) of the DEA "working with a Transportation Security Administration security screener to flag bags containing large sums of cash, which the drug agency could then take."

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General found that the TSA employee was actually registered as a paid source. And just how was the TSA agent to be paid? That was easy – the agent was to get a percentage of the confiscated cash.

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I'm no expert, but is this not the same as the pimp/prostitute relationship? The prostitute does the dirty work (so to speak) of collecting the cash, and the pimp gives her a cut. I think that how it works – at least on TV cop shows.

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The legal term of this governmental theft is civil asset forfeiture.

Of course, all this is a clear violation of the IV Amendment against illegal search and seizure - but hey – no one travels around with stacks of cash unless they are a criminal, right? Because traveling, or even having a large amount of cash is illegal. What? It's not illegal? Well, it should be, if for no other reason than it's too much of a temptation for authorities to resist.

Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture doesn't even require the party being forced to forfeit the cash or property to be charged with a crime. The authorities can just take it. They don't need any evidence of wrong doing or even probable cause.

A perfect example of this abuse of power happened last May to "22-year-old Joseph Rivers at a train stop in Albuquerque, N.M," where DEA agents seized $16,000 in cash from the young man. Oh come on - he had to be criminal.

According to the account, "Rivers was traveling on Amtrak from Michigan to Los Angeles, where he had plans to pursue a career as a music producer. The $16,000, he told The Daily Signal in June, was the culmination of years of savings and money from his mother and other family members." The DEA merely stated that the money was somehow tied to drugs, yet Rivers was never charged with a drug crime or any other crime.

In fact, it has been discovered that the DEA has been paid "an Amtrak informant nearly $1 million over two decades to provide them with passenger information that was already available to the agency."

Yet it is not just federal authorities. State and local agencies are also playing the forfeiture lottery. And this isn't just pocket change. We're talking large sums of money being seized. 

"Between 2004 and 2009, Philadelphia collected some $36 million via civil forfeiture. Long Island police took in $31 million in a single year. The State of Virginia seized assets and cash worth more than $18 million in 2013 alone. In the same year, Michigan's civil asset forfeiture profits topped $16 million, and the State of Texas took a whopping $106 million."

The collections are so great that it allows some cities and states to actually supplement their budgets with confiscated money and property. Naturally, this is a slippery slope if this money makes it into the general fund. All of the sudden, this new source of revenue is being used the same way collected taxes and fees are – to pay the bills. Just like other sources of revenue, States and municipalities get addicted to the easy money – therefore, they need to promote confiscation to keep the money coming in.

Some will certainly say that authorities need this tool to better combat the illegal drug trade, which is what they cite more often than not – but this is America – home of the free – innocent until proven guilty, etc. Criminal forfeiture is one thing, as the forfeiture is followed with a criminal charge, but the wholesale seizure of money and property is clearly unconstitutional and morally reprehensible. The practice should be abolished immediately.

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