Asset Forfeiture

Many organizations, from Institute for Justice to Reason and Cato, have crusaded for the elimination or limiting of the practice of asset forfeiture.  Property can be confiscated for crimes where one has not been found guilty.  The reason is, as I have declared in a previous post, that there is a great difference between our rights against American government under civil law, and those at criminal law.  In particular,

“nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The provision against being required to be a witness against oneself applies only to criminal law.

Asset forfeiture is considered to be a civil case between you and the government, not a crime; more, I suppose, like taxes.  To convict you of a drug crime the government has to prove something; but in a civil case between you and the government the statutory law can make whatever rules it likes, including making an administrative agency that is not really a ‘court’ the determiner of fact, and any dispute about that becomes an ‘appeal’.  This is not the case at criminal law.  The police can ‘charge’ you with a crime, but pleading not guilty is not an ‘appeal’.  If government can turn it into a civil case between it and yourself, as with political fines and many other such situations, the equivalent of pleading not guilty is an ‘appeal’, because at civil law the administrator does not merely ‘charge’ as the police do, but rules, and the burden of proof is to disprove this rule.


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