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The Forfeiture of Freedom

Monday, August 28, 2006

Did you know it was a crime to carry large sums of money on you? Neither did I. However, a federal appeals court ruled that if you're pulled over and are found with large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. The problems with this ruling multiply in my mind... What is considered a "large sum of money"? What about property rights? What about due process of law? What about "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
You have to take a minute to read this article. It will make you realize what a joke our legal system has turned into here in the United States of America. I pity anyone who doesn't trust banks, or snowbirds with a large chunk of walking around money. Your claim to it is all but gone. This fellow, Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, was never accused of or convicted of any crime. They just took his money in a court case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency." Yes, you read that correctly: the case was brought against his money. And to support their position, the court relied, in part, on these three cases:
  • United States v. Dodge Caravan Grand SE/Sport Van,
  • United States v. $84,615 in U.S. Currency, and
  • United States v. $117,920.00 in U.S. Currency.
From the court transcripts we see them acknowledge that "[f]orfeiture is warranted under 21 U.S.C. § 881 when the government establishes a "'substantial connection' between the property" and a controlled substance offense. 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(3)." (See page 5 of linked .pdf below.) They're paraphrasing what the code says. What it actually says is ():
18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(3) if the Government's theory of forfeiture is that the property was used to commit or facilitate the commission of a criminal offense, or was involved in the commission of a criminal offense, the Government shall establish that there was a substantial connection between the property and the offense.
In reading the case, you'll not find where the government has established a criminal offense. Sure, they eluded to some theoretical offenses that may have taken place, but that's not good enough for the taking of private property under this law. Forfeiture is only allowed when there's a nexus between property and a criminal offense. They proved that Gonzolez had property, but never showed a nexus to his conviction for criminal activity.
If they're reasoning is that large sums of money have been connected to drug trafficking and therefore subject to forfeiture, then you could also reason that guns have been used for robbing banks and are also subject to forfeiture if you're found with one.
In my opinion, this whole forfeiture business is ripe for abuse and should either be reworked to only be used after a conviction, or done away with.
Source: US v. $124,700 (US Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, 8/19/2006)


Blogger Mark said...

The law is no longer about protecting your rights or enforcing contracts. It is about how to empower the government to do whatever it wants. At the airport, if you look funny to some dimwit screener, it's likely to result in a confrontation with the cops and maybe a strip search. Whatever you are carrying can be "linked" to terrorism or drugs by some government employee.

Freedom and liberty? Hah. Bend over, America and take it with a smile.

5:18 PM  

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