Civil Asset Forfeiture - Ruining Lives, While Failing To Stop Crime

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Duane via Free Market Shooter blog,

Yesterday, President Trump met with the National Sheriff’s Association at the White House.  Like so many Trump comments, this one took a strange turn when Trump (jokingly or not) threatened to “destroy the career” of a Texas state Senator:

During the meeting, Rockwall County, Texas, Sheriff Harold Eavenson told President Trump about a piece of asset forfeiture legislation he believes would aid Mexican drug cartels…here’s the full conversation:


Eavenson:  “There’s a state senator in Texas that was talking about legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money.”


Trump:  “Do you believe that?”


Eavenson:  “And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed.”


Trump:  “Who is that state senator? I want to hear his name. We’ll destroy his career…”

Though the major point of conversation was about Trump’s threat to a state legislator, the bigger story should be the implicit support Trump gave to civil asset forfeiture, whether he realized it or not.  And if you are not aware what civil asset forfeiture is, it is (surprisingly) something that is agreed by both sides of the aisle to be unjust and unconstitutional, and rightfully so.

Civil asset forfeiture is defined by Wikipedia as “a controversial legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.”  The practice is commonplace in the war on drugs, but it can be extended to almost anything.

What it means is that the government can essentially seize any of your assets it can find (be it in a bank account, or cash/gold/whatever you have in a safe or under the mattress), label them a part of a “criminal investigation,” and keep them indefinitely, without sufficient due process for the citizen to challenge the seizures, and whether you are ultimately charged with a crime or not.

Martin Armstrong of Armstrong Economics explains how police have every reason to seize assets, largely because these civil asset forfeitures are literally funding police departments:

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.


The police have been violating the laws to confiscate assets all over the country. A scathing report on California warns of pervasive abuse by police to rob the people without proving that any crime occurred. Even Eric Holder came out in January suggesting reform because of the widespread abuse of the civil asset forfeiture laws by police.


Bloomberg News has reported now that Stop-and-Seize authority is turning the Police Into Self-Funding Gangs. They are simply confiscating money all under the abuse of this civil asset forfeiture where they do not have to prove you did anything. Prosecutors are now instructing police on how to confiscate money within the grey area of the law.


A class action lawsuit was filed against Washington DC where police were robbing people for as little as having $100 in their pocket.  This is getting really out of hand and it has indeed converted police into legal criminals or “gangs” as Bloomberg News calls them.

And Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkreig even cites the Huffington Post, of all places, which detailed the case of two bakers who did not commit any crime, but had their assets (and lives) ruined by the IRS, because they were able to legally seize the business’s assets by just believing that they may have been engaging in criminal activity, with absolutely no evidence to support their claim:

But the IRS refused to believe Vocatura’s Bakery was operating on the up and up. Agents said the business raised red flags because of a series of cash deposits in sums under $10,000, the amount at which banks are required to report transactions to the federal government. They said this behavior was consistent with a crime known as structuring, which the IRS defines as making calculated financial transactions in order to skirt reporting requirements. The agents had no evidence of other wrongdoing, but thanks to a controversial law enforcement tool known as civil asset forfeiture, they didn’t need any to seize every penny in the Vocaturas’ bank account: $68,382.22.


Under the practice of civil forfeiture, authorities can move to permanently take property they suspect of being linked to criminal activity, without obtaining a conviction — and, in cases like the Vocaturas’, without even charging the owner with a crime.


For the past three years, the brothers have been fighting to get their money back, maintaining they’d done nothing wrong. The IRS has responded by subjecting David, 53, and his brother Larry, 69, to a series of increasingly aggressive legal maneuvers — including threats of significant prison time and additional fines — in an attempt to strong-arm them into permanently forfeiting their assets.


Hours after the suit was filed, the IRS said it would finally give the Vocaturas their money back. But the prosecutor didn’t drop the case. Instead, he now plans to mount an expansive investigation into the bakery’s finances, looking for a reason to bring criminal charges against the brothers.


It was just the latest twist in a protracted legal battle that has called into question some of the government’s favorite — and most problematic —methods of taking people’s money.

The practice is just as bad as it sounds – with the original intent being to stop big time drug dealers from recouping their assets, the practice has devolved into police and agencies of all types funding their departments by stealing the assets of civilians, whether they were obtained criminally or not.  This is also not a partisan trend, and as Michael Armstrong indicated above, the practice has been steadily increasing, across all administrations, since it was first implemented in the early 1980s.  Mike Krieger details the real problem with civil asset forfeiture below:

Civil asset forfeiture is a civil rights issue, and it should be seen as such by everyone. Just because it targets the entire population as opposed to a specific race, gender or sexual orientation doesn’t make it less important.


The problem with opposition in America today is that people aren’t seeing modern battle lines clearly. The greatest friction and abuse occurring in these United States today comes from the corporate-fascist state’s attack against average citizens. It doesn’t matter what color or gender you are. If you are weak, poor and vulnerable you are ripe for the picking. Until people see the battle lines clearly, it will be very difficult to achieve real change. Most people are divided and conquered along their superficial little tribal affiliations, and they completely miss the bigger picture to the peril of society. Which is why women will support Hillary just because she’s a woman, not caring in the least that she is a compromised, corrupt oligarch stooge.

All in the same, this makes Trump’s support of the policy quite disturbing.  Mother Jones, of all places, sums up what it all means, and whether or not Trump actually supports the policy (or even realized the significance of it):

My guess is that he has no idea what civil asset forfeiture is and has no real opinion about it. If, say, Trump had been in a meeting with a few senators, and Bob Goodlatte had remarked that “police can seize your money even if you weren’t convicted of a crime,” Trump probably would have reflexively answered, “Can you believe that?” Instead, a sheriff said it was a bad thing related to Mexicans, so Trump automatically agreed with him. That means it’s now official Trump administration policy.

Obviously, the Sheriffs who met with Trump support the policy – it helps fund their departments.  Perhaps Trump was merely supporting lawmen and trying to unify everyone behind his stated policy of “law and order” by agreeing with them in words, and doing something different in practice.  Surely, we would all like to believe that Trump is prepared to concede that every citizen is innocent until proven guilty, and should have recourse to challenge the legality of any seizure of personal assets.

However, I’m not naive enough to think that is a certainty.  Trump very well could have realized exactly what he was doing and the policy he was supporting, and the ramifications behind his support.  He could actually believe the practice helps stop crime, and be ready to willingly disregard the rights of citizens to do so.  It is an extremely dangerous position to take; one that the Trump administration should clarify as soon as possible.

The average American citizen ends up being the big loser in the ongoing saga of oppressive conduct by the authorities, as the practice is unlikely to end without intervention via legislation and/or executive action.   So, while it would be nice if the media would ask the Trump administration for some clarity on their policy regarding civil asset forfeiture, they seem too preoccupied with asking Trump if he really wants to end a state Senator’s career, in their ongoing quest to boost their own ratings.

It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.


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Ignatius's picture

It's hard to imagine anything more antithetical to constitutional governance -- the rule of law -- than civil asset forfeiture.

Trump, you best reconsider and get this one right, else be a one term wonder.

robnume's picture

Civil Asset Forfeiture=State Sanctioned Theft. Yeah, we're gonna take your hard earned money and you have to prove to us that your money is 'not guilty.' Oklahoma is allowed to just take your bank card from you and drain your account. Stay out of that state if you're traveling through the U.S. Trump really needs to get up to speed on this issue.

macholatte's picture


Let’s not get too hasty now.
The Soros-Clintons Mafia needs to forfeit quite a lot. 
After that, repeal the law.


Orly's picture

The law was developed in the '80's to stop Tony Montana from owning vast amounts of high-priced real estate.  Now, they make more money from it than parking tickets and speeding fines.

beemasters's picture

Meanwhile, please sign:

Issue an International Arrest Warrant for George Soros

That one person whose assets should/could be legitimately seized.
People should probably go out to public places this weekend with their tabs/ipads collecting signatures!! 90k+ signatures to go and ten days left...;o

BuddyEffed's picture

An executive order by Trump to end civil asset forfeiture would make Trump more popular with the lower and middle classes.

Many view that forfeiture as carnage.  It could be easy to get Trump to support ending it. 

Can I get an amen?

brianshell's picture


Also, Trump actually said to the sherrif (referring to the state senator), can you tell us his name?. The sherriff just shrugged. Trump said, would it ruin his career? They all laughed.   That's it.

Neverless, Trump had never heard about civil asset forteiture but the sherriffs lauded it and he said OK.

Notveryamused's picture

I get what Trump meant. However I hope he realises civil asset forfeiture is as bad as it gets.

Helix6's picture

No, not as bad as it gets.  Just one more milestone on the highway to hell.

roadhazard's picture

Trump is no friend of ZH'ers. I told you so.

kochevnik's picture

USA is mafia since 1913.  Only good men needed to die off.  Clinton was simply doing a bank heist for said mob with his failed 1993 WTC bombing.  His punishment was Monica Lewensky.  Man got an 'A' for effort

In cold reality, man on the street is guilty for not eliminating mob.  That is natural law.  Until that time, street man will be treated as chattel

New model for USA: Grand Theft Auto

Elco the Constitutionalist's picture
Elco the Constitutionalist (not verified) kochevnik Feb 11, 2017 1:37 AM

At least the NAZIs tried to resist the Jews.

Bigly's picture

CAF = major first step to a third world banana republic.

Shakedowns, graft, corruption... $20 to pass on this road...all coming to a town near you.

This needs to stop NOW.

Helix6's picture

But it won't.  The cops have already pretty much established the precedent that they can gun down anyone any time for any reason, or for no reason at all except they "felt threatened".  Black people have known this for centuries.  Get used to it. The US is following a very well-worn path into authoritarianism and feudalism.  CAF is just one more signpost along the road.

chunga's picture

If this isn't just moar fake news, and Trump supports civil forfeiture, he's just another no good fucking politician bum.

And you "it's only been 3 weeks" sycophants can stuff it in your hats.

shimmy's picture

One term? I'm starting to think he won't even last a year.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

CAF is typically used against drug dealers. Based on the conversation, it is clear that the context is about drug dealers.

So no sympathy here.

I hold a more differentiated view than you seem to.

Inzidious's picture

You're wrong. Do your homework. There are dozens of reports and stories of blatant abuse, targeting innocent civilians. You are most likely a cop, or work for cops.

Elco the Constitutionalist's picture
Elco the Constitutionalist (not verified) Kirk2NCC1701 Feb 11, 2017 1:41 AM

The best way to stop drug dealers is to END PROHIBITION.

Prohibition is NOT an excuse to suspend Constitutional Amendments 4-6.

Kindly, go fuck yourself, Kirk.

BarkingCat's picture

I don't why it was invented or who it isused against the most.

The constitution protects everyone or eventually protects no one.

The government needs to prove in court that the person is guilty of a crime before they take anything from them. 

If they can take your stuff without due process then soon they will be able to simply take your life.

Luckily so far only Obama had that magic power.


Helix6's picture

"Luckily so far only Obama had that magic power"

If only, but it's actually the office of the POTUS or his designee who has that power.  But in a de facto sense, police have had that power from time immemorial.  I agree that the Constitution either protects everyone or eventually pretects no one.  But any system is only as good as the people manning the controls.

In other words, God help us.

lew1024's picture

The Ubiquitous Surveillance State is just as bad, it seems to me.

Trump, you best get this under control soon, or they will roll you under.

konadog's picture

While I agree with you about the asset forfeiture part, the Dems have disintegrated into race baiting morons who think islands float (Hank Johnson) and pass legislation to see what's in it (Nancy Pelosi). The Dem idiocracy will run another politically correct criminal corpse like Hyena Rotten against Trump. He will chew them up, spit them out and sail in for another 4 almost no matter what he does while in office. Sadly, that might be a good thing.

chubakka's picture

unfortuantely, this story will end up a blip in the short memories of the american public.  He realized very well what he was supporting. His use of imminent domain ( another type of asset confiscation) would show he has no problem with it. apart from that he has my support on most things.  

Jayda1850's picture

Trump is a fucking statist and an authoritarian. He couldn't give a fuck less about your individual rights and liberties. He is for big government, eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture and militarization of the police.

BigFatUglyBubble's picture

He never mentions the importance of liberty, freedom, or privacy in any speeches or "Crippled America."  He is big brother.  "We will take care of everybody."  If that statement doesn't send a shiver up your spine you need to hook a car battery up to your sack and wake the fuck up.

kochevnik's picture

So, will America become another Singapore or another Venezuela?

Arrowflinger's picture

Our capital could be Carracketus

BabaLooey's picture

Oh stick it in your ear.

NO President has ever been "perfect".

By now, your balls should be shriveled prunes, what with the countless numbers of times you wired them up to your Ford's dynamo and cranked it over, under the reign of Soetero, et. al..

For the record, I absolutely DISAGREE with civil asset forfeiture/no due process/eminent domain the government has done.

"Kelo" was a piece of shit decision. 

Trump is wrong on this one, and IF he is "for the people", he'll re-consider this - after hearing loudly from his base.

THEN - if it falls on deaf ears - can you re-hook wires up to us.


BabaLooey's picture

I figured you would jump on this piece.

Gee. Never saw one post from you on SOETERO being "a fucking statist and an authoritarian. He couldn't give a fuck less about your individual rights and liberties. He is for big government, eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture and militarization of the police."

Because that's EXACTLY what HE was.

Prove me wrong. Otherwise, stop being fucking duplicitious.

hedgeless_horseman's picture


...stop being fucking duplicitious.

Stop buying into false dichotomies.



swmnguy's picture

So it's fine with you if Trump turns out to be another 4-8 years of Obama?  Obama, of course, was 8 more years of GW Bush, who was 8 more years of Clinton, who was 8 more years of GHW Bush, who was 4 more years of Reagan.  If you don't look at the names and party identifications, and just look at policies, we're in the early weeks of Reagan's 10th term.

Moral relativism is always a bad thing.  The arguments "I know you are but what am I," "I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you," and "That guy we don't like is really bad, so I can do whatever I want" have become the dominant, and perhaps only, political arguments in America today.  This has developed in pace with the complete collapse of any vestiges of America's moral compass, any sense of civic engagement or public service, and the rise of fraud and corruiption crowding out legitimate productive enterprise as the primary economic activity.

So, Obama was so bad that you no longer have any moral values?  That's not something I'd be shouting from the rooftops, myself, though your mileage may vary.

HRH Feant's picture
HRH Feant (not verified) Feb 10, 2017 8:22 PM

"Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals."

Which makes the USSA one more corrupt country run by bureaucratic thugs.

Orly's picture

There was a lady featured on the show Weediquette who had some pot plants in her garage.  She went through all the paperwork with the city to make certain it was a "legal" grow.  But maybe she got a little greedy and started doing other things on the side.  SWAT rolled in, two kids sitting on the sofa, mouth agape as five huge men pointed automatic weapons at everyone.

The cops searched the house, pulled out all of mom's dildos and put them on the kitchen table (or was it hung them from a ceiling fan?), ransacked the little girls bedroom.  Seems she just had a birthday, so they opened all of the girl's birthday cards and storked the money.

How in the world is this okay?


Helix6's picture

Because the guy pointing the automatic rifle at your kid's head said so.  What's not to understand?

resaci's picture




woof woof


Montana Cowboy's picture

Now I'm worried. I just got a gold crown in my mouth. I'll have nightmares about cops carrying pliers.

resaci's picture

Here' my other dog impression


resaci's picture

what a ya gona do howl at the moon?

they take what the FUCK they want 

and ya can't do a FUCKIN thing about it....

there's no rule of LAW

just rules from da man



Sonny Brakes's picture

It'll be used as a means to top up their unfunded pensions.

flaminratzazz's picture

Chris Hedges just did an article on this,, highlights:

The Fifth Amendment asserts that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.

Sheriff Bill Smith in Camden County, Georgia, spent $90,000 on a Dodge Viper for the county’s Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (DARE) program. According to a sheriff’s spokesman, “the whole point of this car is to grab the kids’ attention” and by impressing kids, they would stay off of drugs. In the past two decades, Bill Smith’s department brought in over $20 million in asset forfeiture proceeds. The motive to arrest and steal assets is quite clear.


When this practice began in the 1990’s, the amount of property stolen without due process was in the millions. Today, this practice has grown to a $4.5 billion dollar governmental criminal enterprise.


With regard to the public theft of private assets by various levels of government, this is merely the calm before the storm. The unfolding plot to take your bank account, your pension, your IRA, Roth and 401K, your bank account and even your freedom will be on rthe table. This is merely the calm before the storm.

swmnguy's picture

At this point, I'd think an enterprising attorney could make this into a 3rd Amendment issue.  Nobody remembers the 3rd Amendment.  It's the one that prohibits forcibly quartering soldiers in people's private homes.  That was a big deal in 1780s America.  And, it seems, it's becoming a big deal again, in a style updated to suit the 21st century.

The police are always claiming to be different from and misunderstood and abused by "Civilians."  By law, of course, police ARE civilians by definition, but they certainly don't think so.  If they're not civilians, they're an extralegal armed force in our society, so we can define them as soldiers.

Police budgets nowadays include estimates and projections for civil asset seizures.  Police departments count on these seizures and spend the rest of their budgets on other things, relying on asset seizures to fill out their budgets.  In this way, politicians turn the police loose to forage on the population to keep budgets and local taxes lower.  The police usually focus their attention on lower-class, non-white and generally unrepresented members of the public.  They don't go after rich people with complicated finances who can have enough socked away to get good legal representation.  They kick down doors, seize all belongings and assets attached to anyone they can name, be it children, spouses, obviously untainted money and property.  And the police and sympathetic politicians oppose, undermine and sabotage all attempts at any kind of supervision or review of this looting.  For obvious reasons.

The police are quite open about the fact that they depend on foraging and believe they have to be allowed to continue this behavior.  Once in a while, you have to take people at their word.  When an armed force with near-impunity by law insists that they can do whatever they want and you can't stop them and live, sometimes you have to believe them.  It was British and Hessian forces the Founders were thinking of in 1787, and it's still hostile mercenary occupiers today.

Helix6's picture

There are some wrongs that can only be righted by meeting force with force.

PresidentCamacho's picture

Couldn't the Police and more importantly the immigration officals just sieze all the illegals shit now  and with the snitch law give like 25% too the person who turns them in and all the money they owe the IRS.

Making america great should be profitable to NATURAL BORN CITIZENS.


Civil Forfeiture of all illegal invaders properties NOW!

HRH Feant's picture
HRH Feant (not verified) PresidentCamacho Feb 10, 2017 11:31 PM

Sounds like the approach used in Ancient Rome. They paid people to snitch to the tax collectors.

The end result was people couldn't afford the tax burden. Especially farmers and land owners. What did they do? They walked away from their land, they left, because to plant crops and work the land was no longer profitable. In other words excessive taxation resulted in a mass exodus and people that went Galt and left the system and that system imploded from within. It collapsed.

When government taxation becomes excessive and burdensome to the majority, especially those that pay taxes, the government ought to be very careful. The Reign of Terror, and widespread famine and starvation, in France is a lesson everyone ought to learn. Politicians lost their heads and blood ran like water in the streets.

Lynn Trainor's picture

Good insights and very relevant.  Thank you.

swmnguy's picture

And who else always gets "snitched out" in these scenarios?  That neighbor you had the fence dispute with (or if the shoe's on the other foot, you get snitched out by that neighbor), the brother-in-law you don't like, the guy at the office who holds the job you think you should have.

It's never real tax cheats or criminals who get "snitched out."  It's always personal vendettas and opportunistic motives that are served.  And the worst, most unscrupulous and vile people are always the ones who benefit the most from a psychopathic civil state.