T
H
E

L
I
B
E
R
T
A
R
I
A
N

E
N
T
E
R
P
R
I
S
E


I
s
s
u
e

59


L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 59, November 15, 1999
Remembrance Day

Senate Should Adopt Rep. Hyde's Asset Seizure Bill

by Vin Suprynowicz
vin@lvrj.com


Special to TLE

           In August, when a U.S. Customs agent at the Canadian border stopped two California newlyweds and found a marijuana fleck in their car, he seized the car and $14,500 in cash, reports Tom Brune of Newsday. Authorities never even charged the couple with a crime -- but the government still got to keep their car and their money.
           Welcome to the unconstitutional house of horrors known as "asset forfeiture," American style. Based on an ancient English precedent which allowed the king's men to seize abandoned smugglers' craft after they'd been run ashore, this circus of fear makes a mockery of our proud constitutional traditions of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the immunity of private property from government seizure without "just compensation."
           (In Florida -- as exposed by CBS News some time back -- local police simply flag down black and Hispanic drivers heading north on I-95, relieve them of their cash, and send them on their lightened way.)
           The only rationale for such perfidy? Government police can't figure out any other way to make it look like they're making any progress with their endless, multi billion-dollar "War on Drugs."
           And, of course, this has become big business for "law enforcement." Department budgets can be padded without having to return to voters each year with hat in hand, and undercover officers get to drive around in all kinds of fancy, seized sports cars. In all, American police departments are expected to seize about $449 million in asserts this year -- all without such pesky, time-consuming details as a "trial."
           Finally, after years of frustration, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., won approval this summer -- by the surprisingly large vote of 375-48 -- of a reform bill which is expected to reduce such miscarriages of justice by at least 40 percent.
           Rep. Hyde's bill would raise the standard of proof required of police before they can seize our stuff to the much higher level of "clear and convincing evidence," just one step short (as things are figured in the courts) of the standard required to prove such a link "beyond a reasonable doubt" -- the standard required for a guilty verdict in criminal trials.
           Sensing that the public is fed up with this indiscriminate looting, the Justice Department has decided to cut its losses, rounding up the Usual Gang of Suspects to draft a substitute "reform" measure that won't cut quite so deeply into the ill-gotten police booty.
           Folks like Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and our old favorite, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are crafting bills backed by the Justice Department and their secret police, requiring only that cops link the seized assets to some criminal act by "the preponderance of the evidence" -- still a weaker standard than "clear and convincing evidence."
           The Schumer substitute bill would also ease or drop other key House provisions, including the Hyde bill's elimination of expensive claim requirements for those trying to recover their seized property, as well as the Hyde bill's new provision of court-appointed counsel to those too seizure victims poor to hire one.
           This is described by Rep. Schumer as accomplishing a change "without throwing the baby out with the bathwater."
           In fact, the Republican majority is already on the right track. The Hyde bill doesn't solve the entire problem, but it's a big step in the right direction. This effort to rein in police excesses -- "short-cut" fines more reminiscent of police state bullies extorting the wealth of helpless racial minorities at Third World border crossings -- should be embraced and applauded, rather than watered down.
           "If the Hyde bill passed," explains Richard Troberman, Seattle attorney for the California newlyweds who lost their car and their life savings, "that case never would be filed."
           The Senate should screw its courage to the sticking place, and pass the Hyde reform bill, as is.


Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is the author of " Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at $21.95 by dialing 1-800-244-2224, or via web site http://www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.


BANNED IN BOSTON (PRIVATE HOMES, THAT IS)

Reilly seeks to revoke licenses of home gun dealers
By Associated Press, 11/02/99 04:57
BOSTON (AP) Attorney General Thomas Reilly told local law enforcement officials to begin revoking the licenses of dealers who sell guns from their homes.

Reilly sent a two-page letter to police chiefs across the state. He instructed police chiefs to review all state gun licenses issued by their departments, and to revoke permits made invalid by the new law.

State officials estimate that more than 700 out of 996 licensed gun dealers sell weapons out of their homes.

A ban on home gun sales took effect Sept. 1 as part of the state's tough new gun control law.
[...]
---
Source: http://www.boston.com/dailynews/306/region/Reilly_seeks_to_revoke_license:.shtml


Previous to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 59, November 15, 1999.