Monday, January 2, 2017

Civil Asset Forfeiture, Anti-Structuring Laws and Other Spawns of The War on Drugs

'The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be a merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy of your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villains as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave. The proceedings of those robbers and murders, who call themselves "the government," are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.'
 - Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority N.O. VI
If I were to tell you that if congress prohibited people from buying, selling, and ingesting certain narcotics, that it would eventually lead police to steal the capital of small-scale proprietors, even if they hadn't committed a crime, and would render every citizen's 5th amendment right to due process of law null, you would think it asinine since the latter is not an obvious consequence of the former, but every violation of moral law, the law of equal liberty, sets a precedent for further violations and every statute, ruling, or executive order has not only an immediate and intended effect, but several distant and unintended effects.Whether or not such acts of government are well intended does not matter; the outcome is what matters and when governments diminish the natural rights of their citizenry widespread miseries tend to follow and social ills tend to multiply.
NO PERSON SHALL be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor BE DEPRIVED OF LIFE, LIBERTY, OR PROPERTY, WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The IRS seized $107,000 from Lyndon McLellan, the owner of a convenience store, gas station, and restaurant all in one place. His only transgression was making multiple deposits of under $10,000. McLellan was never charged with a crime, given the benefit of a public trial, or allowed to even face his accusers. Although the IRS did eventually return McLellan's money, they never compensated him for the interest he lost over the year and a half they confiscated it for.

The IRS seized $33,000 from Carole Hinders, the owner of a Mexican cuisine restaurant that only accepts cash payments. Like Mr. McLellan, she was not charged with a crime, given the benefit of a public trial, or allowed to face her accusers. Her only transgression was making multiple deposits of under $10,000. Ms. Hinders, like Mr. McLellan was unaware of the fact that banks are required to report all deposits or withdrawals over the $10,000 threshold and that any avoidance of the reporting requirement, whether intentional or unintentional, was grounds for asset forfeiture.

The federal government seized $447,000 from Bi-County Distributors, a family owned convenience store in Long Island, NY. Like Mr. McLellan and Ms. Hinders, neither of the Hirsch brothers were charged with a crime, given the benefit of a public trial, or allowed to face their accusers. Their only transgression, one which they were probably unaware of, was making multiple deposits under the $10,000 threshold. Although they were eventually able to retrieve their money with public outcry and pro-bono legal aid from the Institute for Justice, they were never compensated for the interest they had lost for the year they had been dispossessed.

The federal government seized $66,000 from Sgt. Jeff Cortazzo. His intention was to save for his eldest daughter's college from his own paycheck, but unbeknownst to him he was violating the anti-structuring law, The Bank Secrecy Act, by making multiple deposits of under $10,000. He was only able to settle for $35,000.

The Illinois State Police seized $107,000 from Mr. Adam and Jennifer Perry, who were heading for  Utah to see a hearing specialist. Their only transgression was driving a few mph over the posted speed limit and being 'suspected' drug runners. No drugs were found in their car and the police did not charge them with a crime or even cite them for speeding.

According to an analysis conducted by the Institute for Justice the IRS made 639 seizures in 2012. Only 1 in 5 seizures (128) were prosecuted as criminal structuring cases.

The modern highwaymen have only become more efficient robbers over the past four decades. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has just recently employed special Card readers called ERADs to seize money off of prepaid cards.

The same conceptual war that has deprived small-scale proprietors of their capital and rendered everyone's 5th amendment right to due process of law null, has also swept away our 4th amendment right to protection against searches and seizures without probable cause or in cases of peoples' homes, warrantless searches and seizures.
'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'
So called 'Stop and Frisk', most commonly used by NYPD thugs, is one such manifestation of this, in which officers can search anyone on the basis of reasonable suspicion.  In other words, the basis for a pat down is left to the purview of the officer's personal prejudices and biases. In practice, an officer could stop and search someone for wearing a hoodie or simply looking over their shoulder, neither of which necessarily indicates they have committed a crime and for all of its hype it is a very inefficient practice: 9 out of 10 of those stopped and frisked are not found guilty of any crime. Aside from its inefficiency, reasonable suspicion is only grounds for detainment and questioning, not searches and seizures.

In the same spirit, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the 4th Amendment by ruling, in a 4 -3 decision (State of Wisconsin vs. Matalonis), that police officers no longer need a warrant to enter homes and seize evidence; they just need to claim to be exercising their 'community caretaker' function.

In the U.S. vs. Pena-Gonzales, the Fifth circuit U.S. appellate court ruled that having multiple air fresheners, bumper stickers and religious memorabilia is grounds for probable cause because drug runners often use these items to conceal their intentions.  Of course their reasoning, like that used to justify 'stop and frisk', rests on the base rate fallacy. Whether the majority of drug runners use religious memorabilia and air freshener to hide their intentions is irrelevant; the vast majority of people who display religious memorabilia and use air freshener are not drug runners. The same abortion of logic could be used to justify detaining and searching anyone riding a Harley.

The same conceptual war has allowed law enforcement to use college students as slave labor for their rent-seeking enterprise.

The UN convention against transnational organized crime defines human trafficking as: 
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
the consent of a victim of trafficking intended for exploitation is irrelevant once deception, coercion, force or other prohibited means have been used. Consent, therefore, cannot be used as a defence to absolve traffickers from criminal responsibility.
That confidential informants are nothing more than slave labor for the police state is clear from the facts:

1) The officers do not receive the informed consent of the people who agree to work under them as confidential informants. They only detain the suspect and therefore are not obliged to inform the suspect of his/her rights and they do not disclose the risks involved in the work they will do as confidential informants.

2) Suspects become confidential informants under the threat of violence against them i.e. incarceration

3) Confidential informants receive no compensation for their work

That no government should regulate what its citizens put in their own bodies is discernible from moral law. Every natural right (artificial division of moral law), whether enumerated in the constitution or not, establishes an equilibrium of power among everyone within which each person can adequately gratify their desires and adapt to their social conditions. Every violation of moral law, whether intentional or not, tends to reduce the capacity of some to gratify their desires, and therefore reduces their capacity to preserve their own lives, and the misery that results tends to have a rippling effect across interlocking social circles.

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