Nuggets of Wisdom

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

John Oliver Slams Civil Forfeitures

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver offers a humorous if not equally depressing critique on the practice of civil forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize property they suspect is associated with a crime, even when there is no evidence of a crime:



I’m not sure what’s worse about civil forfeiture. That the police can confiscate any one's property without convicting them of a crime? That your property is guilty until you prove it innocent? That police can keep most or all of the money that they seize? That the police spend that money on "nice things" they want like a margarita machine? That the police seizing the property can oversee the same case concerning the seizure, acting as both prosecutor and judge? Or the mental gymnastics that police undergo in order to rationalize their seizures, such as impounding 44 cars at an unlawful party because the attendees were all drinking? Or seizing a house because a drug dealer was living there?

Civil forfeiture is a perversion of rule of law and property rights. In fact, this is reason enough why property rights are so vital. If a man is not entitled to the fruit of his own labor, if he has no right to his own property, then such malfeasances are perfectly justifiable. The police would have the right to seize his property because he does not really own it.

One of the main tenants of Communism is the erosion of property rights, and with practices such as civil forfeiture, eminent domain, and taxation, it seems that our property rights have all but eroded.