Civil Asset Forfeiture – A Horror Story

If you’ve never heard of Civil Asset Forfeiture, listen up. This little-known law can bite you where the sun don’t shine and take years to resolve.

The U.S. Department of Justice operates an Asset Forfeiture Program (AFP or, simply, the Program) that “touches every federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agency in the country.”

The purpose of the Program is to stop crime by using asset forfeiture “consistently and strategically in order to deter, disrupt, and dismantle criminal enterprises by depriving wrongdoers of the fruits and instrumentalities of criminal activity.”

So what is civil asset forfeiture, exactly? Let’s break it down:

The term “civil” has a couple of meanings in a legal context. Broadly speaking, it means “of or relating to citizens” – but, it also pertains to “private rights and remedies sought by action or suit distinct from criminal proceedings.”
An asset is something you own.

In law, “forfeiture” refers to rights, property, or money that is surrendered or lost as a consequence of breaking a legal agreement (law or contract).

Civil asset forfeiture, then, is when a law enforcement agent takes your property because they think you committed a civil (non-criminal) crime. All it takes is the accusation (police arrest charge) of a crime for police to confiscate private property legally.

Civil asset forfeiture is a cash cow. Revenues in 1985 from the first year of this newly legalized funding source came to $27 million. By 1992, the value of all the stuff cops took from citizens jumped to $875 million.

There is so much cop-grabbing going on that, in 2014, revenue from legal asset forfeitures surpassed that from illegal burglaries – to the tune of over

$5 BILLION of property loss!

The FBI added that the total value of property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and other means, was a staggering $12.3 BILLION.

The Program was set up to be self-funding:

“The law authorizes the Attorney General to use the Fund to finance expenses associated with the execution of asset forfeiture functions and, with specific limitations, certain general investigative costs.”

The Program is not required to benefit any other entity or initiative. Intended to fight the false flag “War on Drugs” – which was (as is), in reality, a front for CIA drug running – the real losers here are innocent people who have their rightful property taken from them.

Here is a horror story about civil asset forfeiture to straighten your curly hair:

“It’s been complete hell.” Police made off with $91,800 cash from Phil Parharmovich. Police at a traffic stop issued the 50-year-old entrepreneur a $25 ticket for improperly wearing his seat belt and a warning for “lane use.”

Parhavich was traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, where he planned to purchase a music studio with all the cash he had earned from years of restoring and selling houses, cars, and musical instruments. When the cops found all those greenbacks stashed in a speaker, they took it.

As an added bonus, the cops used “duress” (forceful persuasion) to get Parhavich to sign a waiver on March 13, 2017, that legally prevents him from trying to get his money back. Ever.

Wyoming state officials said the cash is “abandoned,” as far as they are concerned. The zealous state even made a legal motion to “forfeiture the money without notifying Parhamovich of the relevant court hearing until after it happened.”

Parhavich said, “I don’t know too many people who put the kind of hours that I do. I don’t say that in an egotistical way at all; I was just working hard…To just have some police officers take my money, it kills me.”

It only took Wyoming legislators three months to change the law that cast their state in a very unpleasant media spotlight. As of July 1, 2018, Wyoming banned law enforcement agents from pressuring people to “sign waivers that give up their rights to property, including cash, without a hearing and without establishing probable cause. Any waivers in violation of the law are declared ‘null and void.'”

Police really do believe that anyone carrying large sums of cash must be a criminal; therefore, their assets are fair game to fund the local cop shop. As we have seen, it can take years to recoup lost property – and, in some cases, that property is never returned to its rightful owner.

This legal practice is absolutely shameful and has no place in a great nation like the United States of America.
The good news is that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees. SCOTUS just voted unanimously (9-0) to outlaw civil asset forfeiture at the state and local levels of government.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion:

“Protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason: Such fines undermine other liberties. They can be used, e.g., to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. They can also be employed, not in service of penal purposes, but as a source of revenue.”

No more will U.S. law enforcement agencies be allowed under federal law to shake down the citizenry for extra cash. At least, that’s the theory.