Asset Forfeiture AbusePosted: May 27, 2011
Asset Forfeiture Abuse according to Wikipedia:
Asset Forfeiture: abuses and controversy
The widespread use of such proceedings, which usually involve assertion of in rem jurisdiction, has also brought many complaints about their misuse to deprive innocent persons of their lawful property. Without a requirement to prove that a crime had been committed, much less committed by the party in possession of the property, it has become too easy for law enforcement personnel to seize and prosecutors to forfeit properties worth as much as $20,000 because it will likely cost the person that much in legal fees to recover them. This is because in such cases the courts no longer abide by the old common law rule that the party in possession is to be presumed the lawful owner unless it is proved otherwise. Thus, a person carrying $6,000 in cash to a vehicle auction where the auctioneer will only take cash may be stopped and his cash seized because it is presumed only a drug dealer would have or carry that much cash.
The problem is exacerbated by the laws and rules that allow the agencies seizing the assets to keep the money for their operations, including the funding of salaries and promotions, the purchase of vehicles and equipment, and discretionary spending. In addition, there are often not strict controls on how the assets are liquidated, and law enforcement agents are discovered to have acquired forfeited assets, such as vehicles, boats, and other luxury items, without having paid full market value for them or even anything at all. There have even been complaints about law enforcement officers seizing cash and other assets under the pretext of forfeiture and then just keeping them without reporting the seizure.
Another potential abuse involves the timing of police seizures. The police cannot auction seized illegal drugs, but using asset forfeiture they can keep or auction lawful goods purchased with money from the sale of illegal drugs. If the police wait to arrest a suspect they believe to be in possession of illegal drugs until after he or she has sold them, they stand to gain more from asset forfeiture than if they affect an immediate arrest while the suspect is still in possession of the illegal drugs. In this way, police forces are perversely discouraged to stop the sale of illegal drugs, so that the value of these drugs may be converted through unlawful sales into property the police can make use of.
The opportunity of forfeiture also gives the police an incentive to exert political influence, in their official capacity and through their unions, against liberalization of drug laws.
In South Africa the Prevention of Organized Crime Act of 1998 is inconsistent with section 25(1) of the South African Bill of Rights. Even before a person has committed a crime, the right of every person to own property is severely derogated by civil forfeiture. According to section 36(1), civil rights may be derogated only to the extent that the derogation is reasonable and justifiable.