Fishy Federal Asset Seizures

by Chidem Kurdas

A Wall Street Journal article reports that the number of federal statutes giving the government the right to confiscate citizens’ assets has nearly doubled since the 1990s, by one count.  This is not something that happens only to convicted gangsters. Among the more than 400 federal statutes allowing for forfeiture is the Northern Pacific Halibut Act.

Violators of the Halibut Act, which prohibits fishing in certain areas in order to conserve stocks, can lose their boat and – this could get smelly – their fish as well.

“Last year, forfeiture programs confiscated homes, cars, boats and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in five years, Justice Department statistics show,” wrote John Emshwiller and Gary Fields in the WSJ. They don’t mention illicit halibut; Continue reading

No Charges, but Police Keep the Cash

by Roger Koppl

That’s the headline in the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne:  No charges, but police keep the cash.  (HT Michelle Thomas.) Yep, property seizures do not require that the persons from whom the property was seized be actually, you know, like guilty of a crime or anything. The police found $26,000 cash in a traffic stop. No charges beyond the speeding ticket, but they kept the cash. The Journal Gazette reports, “Having that much cash is not a crime, but police have the right to seize it if they suspect it has been used or procured through criminal means. Most of the money seized comes from drug cases and can then be used by various law enforcement agencies.” The head of the vice unit of the local Sheriff’s office explains matter-of-factly, “If it’s way, way over and above what a normal person will carry, and if things don’t add up (on how it was acquired), we take the money.” Explain yourself! And if we don’t like your explanation, we get to keep the money. Continue reading