Every one of us is protected from ‘unlawful search and seizure’ by the Constitution; or so we thought. Law enforcement agencies are seizing your assets under the fourth amendment, with aid from a controversial act.
When the unconstitutional ‘Patriot Act’ was passed after the attacks on 9/11, what was predicted has happened; much of our individual freedoms have been erased. Law enforcement agencies at local, city, state and federal levels have used a technicality to seize money and assets from individuals who have not been charged with a crime. Policies with names such as ‘Equitable Sharing’ and ‘Asset Forfeiture’ have been used to steal millions of dollars in cash and valuable commodities from average citizens. In turn the money from these unlawful seizures has been used to increase America’s ‘police state,’ providing our law enforcement agencies with military style equipment.
As with several amendments to the Constitution the key to protection under the fourth amendment is in its interpretation. Supported by the ‘Patriot Act,’ law enforcement and drug enforcement agencies are using a flaw in the understanding of an individual’s right to privacy. While conducting an ordinary traffic stop, if an officer of the law believes he or she may be in danger, they are allowed to search the vehicle and confiscate anything they deem suspicious. That includes large amounts of cash, drugs, and items they ‘have reason to believe could have been stolen.’ Although no arrest may have been made, the items are not returned to the driver or passengers.
Law enforcement agencies have training films for just such actions. In order to recover stolen cash and assets, the effected individuals are forced to take legal action. The time period is often longer than one year.
An extreme example of this previous unconstitutional act happened in Arizona. A deputy working in Maricopa County had been seizing money and valuables from targeted Hispanic motorists for an extended period of time. Many of his victims were American citizens. The authorities are fully aware that illegal residents often have larger amounts of cash in their possession because they are paid for work in a manner which has no accountability.
The officer was under investigation by Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office. A search of the officer’s home produced drugs, bags of confiscated material, fake ID’s, and personal information about hundreds of Hispanics. He was arrested and later found dead by hanging in his cell. It was ruled a suicide.
It is estimated that 81 percent of the money spent by law enforcement agencies for equipment such as helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and protective gear come from seizures, and most of the victims have never been charged of a crime.
There is no question that these victims have been denied their Constitutional rights. Law enforcement agencies don’t see it that way. Is the United States moving towards a militarized police state? If you watch the news and witness the type of equipment used by local police you must believe it is a fact. Why does a small town of 20,000 residents need a tank? Is it necessary for local police to wear the same protective gear seen on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan?
This writer has always campaigned for a reform in our laws regulating the purchase of guns, citing the thousands of deaths of women and children every year from their use. Maybe I’m wrong. Will there be a time in our future when we are once again forced to become a militia and fight against our own government? The possibility certainly exists.
How much does one assault rifle cost?
By James Turnage