‘Highway Robbery’ by U.S. Police Gets Green Light, Thanks to Ruling

This article originally appeared on WND.com

Guest by post by Bob Unruh

Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties’

It’s been called by some “a modern-day form of highway robbery,” but the Supreme Court nevertheless has gone along with it.

It’s the practice by police of using delay tactics when they confiscate cash, jewelry, cars and other valuables from people who sometimes are completely innocent of any offense.

They are “asset forfeiture” cases and often involve no criminal charge against the property owner, according to a report from the Rutherford Institute, which fights in America’s courts for constitutional, religious and civil rights.

The latest high court action came in a 6-3 decision in Culley v. Marshall, where the justices held that there are “no due process protections for citizens in asset forfeiture proceedings to have an early court hearing to contest the government keeping possession of their seized property while they await trial.”

Lawyers for the Rutherford were joined by those from the ACLU and Cato Institute to argue that an early hearing was needed to “protect citizens against the government’s delay tactics, which make it difficult for individuals innocent of any wrongdoing to recover their property in a timely manner from police who stand to profit from the forfeiture.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch said it is a problem to have police delay proceedings and keep citizens’ private property for as long as a year or more.

He said that could coerce the owners to “settle” the dispute by paying a penalty for property they need for their work, or that they love.

But the majority overruled him.

“Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties,” warned constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “You just have to possess something the government wants.”

The institute explained, “Asset forfeiture has become a ‘booming business’ for the government, with federal forfeitures alone having brought in $2.5 billion during 2018. Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where government agents (usually the police) seize private property they ‘suspect’ may be connected to criminal activity, then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property, often divvying it up with the local police who did the initial seizure.”

The government claims in such cases that some sort of property is “tied” to a crime, and then takes it. Then it forces the owner to prove the “innocence” of that property.

But the government sets up hoops and obstacles for the owners to negotiate in trying to regain their own property.

“Challenging these takings in court can cost an owner more than the value of the confiscated property itself, which, as Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence explained, is why some agencies reportedly place special emphasis on seizing low-value items and relatively small amounts of cash,” the institute reported.

The case developed when police in Alabama confiscated cars belong to Halima Culley and Lena Sutton which had been used by other individuals who were accused of drug possession.

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