It is beginning to look like this country’s police and sheriff departments are getting a taste for cash, your cash! You don’t need to be a criminal or even charged with a crime. They just demand citizens turn over any large amounts of cash and claim you are going to buy drugs with it without any proof. This is how government officials/police are financed in third world countries.
Forfeiture has been used by authorities to fight the “War on Drug” with great impact on criminal organizations. But now the local police trained by private companies such as Desert Snow, LLC and it’s Black Asphalt Electronic Networking System that is used by police to target individuals without proof of a crime.
As the tactics taught by Desert Snow are used in state and local police become more institutionalized, forfeiture has been abused to violate an individual’s right to property and presumption of innocence.
In civil forfeiture, the burden of proof has moved to the victim of forfeiture, making the return of property seized difficult and expensive. Also the benefit to the governmental agencies involve is great, growing from $93.7 million (1986) to $2.50 billion in 2008 in Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. Some of this was criminal forfeiture, but also includes innocent victims.
State and local agencies have found this is a way to increase their budgets significantly. In Texas, in Jim Wells County, authorities seized more than $1.5 million during a four-year period mostly off of U.S. Route 281, described as a “prime smuggling route for drugs going north and money coming south.” Seized cash is a third of the budget of the sheriff’s department, allowing it to buy more equipment, high-powered rifles, and police vehicles. There are few restrictions on how police use seized funds. In some counties in Texas, 40% of police revenue comes from forfeitures. Texas, with many smuggling corridors to Mexico, and police seized $125 million in 2007.
The solution to preventing innocent victims of civil forfeitures, is to reduce or eliminate the incentives for police and governmental agencies. By restricting the use of funds to neutral use, that does not benefit the agencies directly, abuse would be reduced. Or eliminate the issue completely like New Mexico which passed a law making civil forfeiture illegal in New Mexico, the first state to outlaw the practice.