It’s 3:00 a.m. in the morning, and I am up writing this after having my sleep disrupted by a disturbing dream. In my dream, I am headed somewhere on an Amtrak train when it suddenly comes to an abrupt stop. A federal agent approaches and asks for the work ID I have on a cord around my neck. I say “No,” stating that it is unconstitutional to ask me for this without reasonable cause. The agent responds with “Okay, thank you very much,” before proceeding to ask other passengers the same question.
Later in the dream, I notice a long line of people have been rounded up at the back of the train. The female conductor, who is stationed at the front of the line, just shakes her head. She mentions to the remaining passengers that this has become a frequent occurrence on many train routes and that those who agree to the confiscation are rounded up for additional search and seizure. “Those who say yes are presumed to be guilty,” she says, with a very concerned look on her face.
I am not surprised by the timing of this dream, because I have been preparing for several days to write an article on what is known as Civil Asset Forfeiture. This practice is coming under fire across the U.S. as growing numbers of innocent Americans are having their cash, computers and other items confiscated by the feds, without even being charged with a crime.
Civil Asset Forfeiture is a little-known legal tool used by law enforcement to confiscate your property, sell it and then use the proceeds to fund their crime-fighting efforts – or just buy themselves new stuff that they want. Because of the egregious manner in which it is used, states like Michigan and New Mexico have enacted reforms to prevent innocent citizens from having their money and property taken. And even law enforcement officers are now speaking out against this practice, which brings in millions in revenue to police departments who then use the money to further oppress the masses.
So how widespread is this issue? Well, you be the judge. The best case example is in Philadelphia – the so-called City of Brotherly Love – where from 2002 to 2012, over $64 million in forfeiture funds (almost $6 million a year) was exacted from its citizens. Just in 2011 alone, city prosecutors filed over 6,500 forfeiture cases to confiscate cash, cars, homes and other property. The worst offense of all is that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office is reputed to have used $25 million of that $64 million to pay salaries, including those of the very prosecutors who led the forfeiture actions. “