Think we're innocent until proven guilty? That your life, liberty and property can't be taken from you unless you're convicted of a crime?
Think again. In my syndicated column this week, I look at civil forfeiture laws:
Zaher El-Ali has repaired and sold cars in Houston for 30 years. One day, he sold a truck to a man on credit. Ali was holding the title to the car until he was paid, but before he got his money the buyer was arrested for drunk driving. The cops then seized Ali's truck and kept it, planning to sell
Ali can't believe it.
"I own that truck. That truck done nothing."
The police say they can keep it under forfeiture law because the person driving the car that day broke the law. It doesn't matter that the driver wasn't the owner. It's as if the truck committed the crime.
"I have never seen a truck drive," Ali said. I don't think it's the fault of the truck. And they know better."
..."Under this bizarre legal fiction called civil forfeiture, the
government can take your property, including your home, your car, your cash, regardless of whether or not you are convicted of a crime. It's led to horrible abuses," says Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice, the libertarian law firm.
... This is serious, folks. The police can seize your property if they think it was used in a crime. If you want it back, you must prove it was not used criminally. The burden of proof is on you. This reverses a centuries-old safeguard in Anglo-American law against arbitrary government power.
Full column here.