Civil Asset Forfeiture: Another Stealth Tax

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

When you're a government agency, asking for a tax increase is always a hassle. 

For the most part, taxpayers don't like taxes, and if asked if they want to pay more, they're likely to often say "no." 

Moreover, when public officials pass tax increases, they may face the wrath of taxpayers at the ballot box.

For this reason, governments are always looking for ways to get revenue without having to use tax revenue. After all, if taxes are the government's only source of revenue, this presents a problem. As noted by Ludwig von Mises in Omnipotent Government: 

The government has but one source of revenue — taxes. No taxation is legal without parliamentary consent. But if the government has other sources of income it can free itself from this control.

One of these "other sources of income" is the so-called "inflation tax" through which governments can create more money for themselves by simply creating it. The "tax" then falls on the public which is left holding devalued currency. 

This is, as Ludwig von Mises, noted, "essentially undemocratic" since it's an attempt to make an end run around the voters and obtain more revenue without having to go through the trouble of raising taxes honestly and out in the open. 

Another method of seizing wealth from the taxpayers is through what is now called "civil asset forfeiture." 

This occurs when a law enforcement agency seizes the assets — including real estate, cars, cash, and other valuables — from private citizens based merely on the suspicion that the person has committed a crime with the assets in question. No due process is necessary. No conviction in a court of law need occur. 

While it is technically possible to sue a government agency to reclaim one's possessions, this requires immense amounts of time and legal fees to pursue. 

Needless to say, civil asset forfeiture has become a lucrative source of income for law enforcement agencies. And, over the past 30 years, the practice has become widespread. 

Tate Fegley writes

Similar to how the income tax has become the primary source of funding for the federal government, many police departments have become dependent on CAF [civil asset forfeiture] to pad their budgets. In a survey of 1,400 county sheriffs and municipal police departments, 40 percent of responding agencies agreed that forfeiture provides a necessary budget supplement.

Fortunately, many taxpayers and reformers have begun to demand changes to their policies, and require that property can only be seized if the accused is actually convicted of a crime. 

In recent years, New Mexico and Nebraska have enacted sweeping reforms to the system. Other milder — but significant — reforms have also been adopted in Maryland, Florida, Minnesota, and Montana. 

Not surprisingly, law-enforcement agencies have often opposed the reforms tooth and nail. Moreover, in New Mexico, many municipal governments simply continued to seize assets, claiming the state law did not apply to them. 

Even when the reforms are extremely mild, as is the case with recently-passed legislation in Colorado, local governments and law enforcement agencies are demanding the governor veto the reform legislation already passed by the legislature. 

In response to the proposed legislation, a lobbyist for the County Sheriffs of Colorado claimed

A lot of the counties don't have the money to put the supplemental budgets in there to make these drug task forces go, and so that leads to decreased ability to do drug investigations and human trafficking investigations.

The message: "veto this bill, or you're complicit in human trafficking."

In a joint op-ed penned by the DA, the sheriff, and a commissioner from one Colorado county, the authors demanded a veto pointing out that "the forfeited funds go to all of our law enforcement agencies ... to assist in enhanced training programs, purchase equipment to keep our officers safe, and help prevent crime in our area."

Looking at government protests to the reform one will notice a common denominator: civil asset forfeiture is about enhancing the revenue of local governments and law enforcement agencies. 

Virtually ignored is the fact that these revenues are obtained by seizing the property of innocent people. We know they're innocent, because — nationwide, at least — an overwhelming majority of seizure victims were never actually brought up on any criminal charges

Indeed, the opponents of the Colorado legislation claimed the burden of proof was on the legislation's supporters to prove "abuse" on the part of law enforcement agencies. But only in the mind of a government agent is seizing property without due process — even if it's a single case — not prima facie evidence of abuse. 

Moreover, "proof" is hard to come by precisely because reporting requirements are so lackluster in cases of asset forfeiture, that it's hard to know the money's provenance, or where it ends up. 

These government agencies claim that without this revenue, they'll be unable to fight crime effectively. But, if government agencies need to collect revenue to fight violent criminals, there's a perfectly legal and out-in-the-open way to raise that revenue: they can ask the taxpayers to submit to a tax increase. 

It's that simple.

If this money is really as essential as the government agencies say it is, a tax increase should be a slam dunk. After all, who doesn't want more money for the prevention of human trafficking? 

But we all know what will really happen. The taxpayers, already burdened with multiple federal, state, and local taxes, may be reluctant to approve yet another tax increase. The local governments would have to convince the taxpayers that the money would actually be used for fighting serious crimes, and not to pad the pensions of government employees.

Thus, it shouldn't surprise us at all that local governments and law enforcement agencies would rather make their money by stealing from people who've never been convicted of any crime. It's so much easier that way.

 

Comments

Common_Law Thu, 06/08/2017 - 18:58 Permalink

I'm sure they justify this the same way they justify income taxes. Tricking  (legaly presuming) everyone into federal jusistiction by participating in Federal programs (aka signing federal forms) which is never mandatory. And, federal jurisdiction is the most oppressive in the country. Just like signing (clicking) away your right to privacy by agreeing to Google's terms of service, the same happens with the feds, but there terms don't have to be fully disclosed. Like click wrap and shrink wrap contracts in the tech world it is totally legal. http://sedm.org/Search/SubjectIndex.htmhttp://sedm.org/Forms/10-Emancip…

erkme73 Common_Law Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:44 Permalink

This should be mandatory viewing for everyone.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJksA recent Fed Reserve memo recommends bank tellers inform their local law enforcement when customers withdraw more than $5k in cash.   Couple this with the forfeiture laws, and you may be able to connect the dots. How sad is it that these stories aren't in the national news spotlight, and most learn about it through a comedy routine?

In reply to by Common_Law

Endgame Napoleon erkme73 Thu, 06/08/2017 - 20:14 Permalink

That is probably a terrorism-fighting measure. Sad though. I have seen people trying to sell things like cars, with potential customers that they knew from church or whatever wanting to pay cash, and the bank told them about that rule. We really do not have any freedom anymore, in a free country, to just do small, ordinary transactions of life without Uncle Sam as a shadow. This issue probably hurts poor, innocent people more than any other group.

In reply to by erkme73

HRClinton serotonindumptruck Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:37 Permalink

Shrewd people and winners mitigate this kind of risk, just like all other forms of risk.What to do?  INCORPORATE!  As much and as complex as required, and as can be afforded. For those who can't, live in a modest house and lawfully shelter your assets overseas or squirrel away on secure premises. You can't confiscate that which cannot be reached or is unknown. Those who won't do this either, are playing the Wheel of Fortune. Good luck with that strategy. 

In reply to by serotonindumptruck

chunga Thu, 06/08/2017 - 18:47 Permalink

This nasty shit is such a downer. Time to put a beer in the freezer and get ready for hockey.You Pittsburgh fans better hope Rinne goes blind again.

Vilfredo Pareto Thu, 06/08/2017 - 18:51 Permalink

Yup. I am Taxed Enough Already. I have compassion fatigue.  According to libtards there are a million screaming budget priorities and all of them are number 1 on the list if we are going to alleviate human suffering.  I have had to plug my ears to the cacophony.

Endgame Napoleon Vilfredo Pareto Thu, 06/08/2017 - 20:21 Permalink

I do not even have money, but as a former progressive, I can actually see this point now. They never solve any of these problems, anyway, but just keep adding to the list of freebies for a few--the same few in most cases. I call it the opportunistic rich and the opportunistic poor. The people who really take it on the chin are in the middle or on the low end of the middle, particularly the self-employed and those WITHOUT children.

In reply to by Vilfredo Pareto

Hillarys Server Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:22 Permalink

I'm not suggesting a revolution but stuff like thus is completely unacceptable. What country in the would accept the police riding by and taking your stuff?

And the overwhelming majority isn't even charged with a crime.

How could anyone go on a cross country car trip? When I visit California I wanted to drive to Yosemite but now I'm scared to drive long distance.

It's the like the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre where they stop your car, take you to some place, slide open a metal door, lift you up and hang you on a meat hook. Same concept!

And I recall some police guy told Trump they needed asset forfeiture and Trump said he was behind it one hundred percent and to definitely tell him if anyone tries to take it away.

I don't think Trump realizes this turns our great nation into Mexico! Someone should tell him!

serotonindumptruck Mr. Schmilkies Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:35 Permalink

Agree with your suggestion, however the cynic in me says that such referendums wouldn't pass due to the vast majority of the voter base who haven't lost everything to civil asset forfeiture.Unless someone experiences this tyranny firsthand, or knows someone that it has happened to, many people would vote against it because they think they are exempt, and it would NEVER happen to them, because they are "law abiding citizens".

In reply to by Mr. Schmilkies

BrutusTheBomber Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:30 Permalink

Cops steal my shit, I'm shooting one of them. Fair warning. I'll snipe one out. And they can keep the stolen goods.I'd shoot a thief if I caught one robbing me, I'll treat the cops the same way.Eye for an eye.

Endgame Napoleon Ol Man Thu, 06/08/2017 - 20:31 Permalink

I live in the South and have worked with a wide clientele in the insurance industry. This is the first time I have heard about it, and I heard a LOT of stories when working in insurance. It is horrible, though. I am for a strong police force to protect us against violent crime, but they need to fund them through the budget so that they do not have to resort to this.

In reply to by Ol Man

Hammer of Light Thu, 06/08/2017 - 19:44 Permalink

To all the RUBES who put their gold in storage that is audited by every government... don't say you weren't told! They'll come up with any reason to loot you dry!P.S. - Whatever you do, and we have been testing this online... DO NOT BUY METALS OVER THE NET WITH ANY FORM OF TRANSNATIONAL CAPABILITY.The IRS is building logs of everyone who buys anything now electronically especially those who buy metals. They're creating an audit trail of your value and companies like Halliburton, Xerox, E.I du Pont Nemours (aka CIA front) the NSA are all  - ALL OF THEM are keeping track of ALL of your buys. PERIOD.We've been tracking them for months now on a 40 USD old top that we left wide open for them. I post all sorts of mad shit to draw them in. They are in all of our US banks accounts, all of our telephones, all of our laptops and tablets... they're infected into every single thing we do online and we can see them the second we click on virtually anything. If you're going to buy, do it with cash, do NOT let anyone know how much or WHAT you're buying and take EXTREME precautions to protect your anonymity from THEM. These maggots are like a plague, an infection what is out to get all of us.If any of you doubt me, we've got LOADS of data now sent off to various attorneys who are frankly stunned by all this. But it is real, it is happening and it is happening now.As things begin to go real bad in the coming months, EXPECT them to literally show up and begin confiscations of all your net worth under any excuse. Take your shit out OF the US to a safe location you better find a place to BURY that stash in a place where you hid that thing that one time and never let them track you to your destination.If you're going to hide your stuff, take no phones, use cars that are NOT traceable and never let them see your face. Where a mask when going through high camera areas and NEVER let them see you face at the toll.These fuckers are and have become exceedingly dangerous to all of our freedoms. Either you disappear you and your stuff or get ready to get bent over and fucked like a rube by the IRS Stasi.Believe me, it is literally this bad and we have literally started getting our citizenship in order for other countries to take set up our repositories elsewhere in literal underground vaults.It's become dangerous to own anything of value in the US. There is no such thing as home ownership, it's ONLY loaner-ship. Only a fuckin rube takes out a mortgage and even then, you don't own the house nor the property. try not paying taxes.. buh-by house! The US is a racketeering con game designed to make certain you lose it all in the end to them. Some of us are no longer playing the game here. Too many other countries I can buy a beautiful piece of property, build a home and there are no more taxes beyond that. Once it's paid for you own it for life and can will it to your kin. To gain true freedom from tyranny, you ahve to leave the US if you want to keep your assets and life intact.