Forbes – Big Brother’s Stop-and-Snatch Asset Forfeiture Boom

5 Nov

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Imagine you are a small town grocer whose business is not large enough for an armored car service, so you regularly deposit the day’s cash receipts in a local bank. You’re only insured for thefts up to $10,000, so you make sure to never have more on the premises. One day, without warning, the government swoops in and confiscates all the money in your bank account, accusing you of “structuring” your legal deposits to avoid triggering mandatory reporting requirements for cash transactions over $10,000. To top it all off, prosecutors can keep your money without winning a conviction, and you’re required to prove your innocence to get it back.

No, this is not a story from some banana republic kleptocracy. This happened to Terry Dehko and his daughter Sandy Thomas, who run a grocery store in Fraser, Michigan. Incidents like this are becoming more frequent and egregious, and alarm bells are starting to sound around the nation as an increasing number of innocent citizens become collateral damage in the never-ending war on drugs.

Sadly, the results aren’t surprising. Asset forfeitures proceeds line the pockets of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies—total net assets seized in fiscal year 2012 exceeded $4.2 billion, according to the Department of Justice. A more perverse incentive structure is difficult to imagine. So, more people are beginning to ask: How did we get into this mess?

To read the rest of the column click here.

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