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Police State USA: Civil Forfeiture Under Presumption of Guilt

Where in the world can police confiscate your money and your property, not charge you with any crime, then tell you there is absolutely nothing you can do about it?

The answer, which you may not have known (but might have guessed from the title), is none other than the USA, where people mistakenly presume the law says innocent until proven guilty.

Legalized Robbery

In a report called Stop and Seize, the Washington Post details how aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes.

The Washington Post noted there have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments. Law enforcement agencies confiscated more than $2.5 billion. Half of the seizures were below $8,800. Here are a few examples.

  • A 55-year-old Chinese American restaurateur from Georgia was pulled over for minor speeding on Interstate 10 in Alabama and detained for nearly two hours. He was carrying $75,000 raised from relatives to buy a Chinese restaurant in Lake Charles, La. He got back his money 10 months later but only after spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer and losing out on the restaurant deal.

  • A 40-year-old Hispanic carpenter from New Jersey was stopped on Interstate 95 in Virginia for having tinted windows. Police said he appeared nervous and consented to a search. They took $18,000 that he said was meant to buy a used car. He had to hire a lawyer to get back his money.

  • Mandrel Stuart, a 35-year-old African American owner of a small barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Va., was stunned when police took $17,550 from him during a stop in 2012 for a minor traffic infraction on Interstate 66 in Fairfax. He rejected a settlement with the government for half of his money and demanded a jury trial. He eventually got his money back but lost his business because he didn't have the cash to pay his overhead.

John Oliver on Civil Forfeiture

The above examples are outrageous, but the following one detailed by John Oliver is far worse.

Matt Lee, from Lake Station, Michigan was driving to California with $2,400 in cash his dad lent him to start a new business. In a routine traffic ticket pullover, police asked Lee if he was carrying any money. Lee told the police he had $2,400 from his dad and the police promptly confiscated the money.

The police officer told Lee "I have concluded my investigation and am keeping the money because you are traveling to California to buy drugs."

It is incredulous to believe someone would travel all the way from Michigan to California to buy a mere $2,400 in drugs. Yet, that was the conclusion of the officer.

It is amazing, and scary, that this happens in the US.

But it happens all the time. "Everyday I do this. It's all I do for a living. It's drug interdiction and I get money," said the Nevada police officer.

Let's describe Civil Forfeiture as it really is: Police State USA in which police act as judge and jury, with a presumption of guilt, and steal what they want for their own benefit.

Traveling to the USA? CBC news in Canada explicitly advises of the American shakedown: Police won't charge you, but they'll grab your money.


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