Eminent Domain Applies to More Than Land
An affiliate of CBS is reporting on a Yuba City, California man who claims that the DEA recently confiscated around $29,000 from him at O'Hare Airport.
Evidently the man in question buys and restores cars, with the business plan of then reselling the refurbished vehicles for profit. Traveling with hard currency is not illegal within the USA, and this man apparently travels quite often with large sums of cash.
On this occasion however, TSA agents spotted the cash in his bags and, claiming to smell marijuana, removed him and his bags from line for a more thorough search, where upon the money was taken from his possession without any explanation provided. Even though no evidence of marijuana was actually found, either in his baggage or on his person. While such a theft committed by anyone not wearing a badge would obviously face criminal charges, when conducted by officers of the law the act is quite legal under the DEA's Civil Asset Forfeiture Program, which exists expressly to allow DEA agents to confiscate currencies, valuables and any other items of interest from anyone at any given time, with no advance warnings and no explanation or restitution after the fact.
What's more, the DEA is not the only federal agency with such a program.
The New York Times reported in 2014 that federal law permits the IRS to seize checking and savings accounts with no suspicion of any crime even needing to be reported to prompt such an action.
The Washington Post reported in 2015 that over the previous year the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. According to statistics from the FBI for that for the same window of time, actual burglary losses nationwide only topped out at $3.5 billion. Meaning that the Department of Justice actually stole more from the American peoples than did the burglars they are tasked with preventing and reprehending. Christopher Ingraham, who authored that article for the Washington Post, wrote: "Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture."
He tries to explain away the actions of the public servants, however, in saying that the FBI also tracks property losses from larceny and theft, so that if one were to add up losses from all crimes then the bad guys would out-do the peacekeeping officers. He further defended the servers of the public trust, protectors of the innocent and upholders of the law in saying: "The net assets of the funds are usually seen as a more stable indicator — those numbers show how much money is left over in the funds each year after the federal government takes care of various obligations, like payments to victims."
So, after the police pay their phone bills, purchase lingerie for undercover cops to entrap John Doe for prostitution and pay off the families of persons beaten, or shot to death by the police themselves, then you get a smaller total of monies collected by law enforcement. Ingraham also failed to mention the stone-cold likelihood that not every single red cent taken by police actually ever finds its way onto official reports and into appropriate departmental bank accounts.
The Vox website reported last year how Jeff Sessions, the current administration's Attorney General, is actively seeking to expand all of these assorted civil asset forfeiture programs.
But they don't only happen at the federal level.
In 2016 Capt. McKenzie Mattingly, at the time the acting police chief overseeing the Bardstown, Kentucky police department, was caught using for personal use a wrongfully-impounded utility trailer which rightfully belonged to one of his neighbors. It took numerous complaints from multiple concerned parties in the local community before the city council or the Bardstown police noted that officer Mattingly probably had no business driving around town with the trailer attached to his personal truck. Eventually the trailer was returned, but Mattingly faced not even the faintest hint of reprimanding.
As above, so below; by way of monkey see, monkey do.