Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to take property from citizens without charging anyone with a crime. The property is then handed off to the government who can then sell it for profit.
When these rules first came into place, they were meant to deter crime but it’s now suggested they’re turning cops into robbers as government uses these laws as a way to make a profit. It’s becoming one of the biggest threats to property rights.
We’ve already seen a few significant stories coming out of Canada, specifically Ontario, including that of Margaret and Terry Reilly. Things went sideways for the couple who owned rental properties when in 2008, the police found that illegal drug activity was occurring at two of the residences. Shortly after, those properties were seized by the Ontario government.
Once Margaret and Terry were stripped of landlord rights, the properties were unoccupied and left to deteriorate. The couple were forced to stand by and watch it all happen even though they had never been found guilty of, or involved in, any crime.
In the United States, the problem appears to be worse.
For example, in 2011 Philadelphia made 6,560 forfeiture petitions for things like cars, cash and homes and from 2002 to 2012, that city took in $64 million from the process, $25 million of which went to pay for salaries.
That’s pretty telling isn’t it? Not only is this unconstitutional and a threat to property rights, but it’s as if the police are now looking for profit over justice.
If this can happen to Bruce Montague and the Reillys, it can happen to any one of us.