Civil asset damage is one of the best annihilative and aboveboard actionable government practices occurring in the United States today. Beneath its auspices, law administration agencies are acceptable to appropriate cash, cars, homes, businesses, and added acreage from innocent bodies who accept been neither answerable nor bedevilled of any basal crime. The bedeviled acreage is again either sold, with the government pocketing all or best of the proceeds, or put to use by the bureau that took it. In either instance, law administration gets to accumulation from its policing. All of this occurs admitting the actuality that the Constitution acutely forbids both the federal government and the states from depriving any being of life, liberty, or property, after due action of law.
Library of CongressHow did we get here? The U.S. Supreme Cloister deserves its allotment of the blame.
In 1996 the Supreme Cloister issued its extensive accommodation in the case of Bennis v. Michigan. At affair was the access of a Pontiac auto apprenticed by a man called John Bennis, who was arrested in the car with a prostitute and after bedevilled of gross indecency. John’s wife, Tina, was collective buyer of that car and, for barefaced reasons, objected back the accompaniment took it abroad from her for a abomination that she did not commit. So she went to cloister to stop the damage proceedings, arguing, correctly, that she was altogether innocent yet the accompaniment had beggared her of her absorption in the car after alike assuming to action any array of due process.
Unfortunately, she absent the case. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist rubber-stamped the absolute civilian asset damage racket. “An owner’s absorption in acreage may be absent by acumen of the use to which the acreage is put alike admitting the buyer did not apperceive that it was to be put to such use,” he wrote. So abundant for the Due Action Clause.
Predictably, civilian asset damage corruption has alone added in the two decades back that acquiescent cardinal was issued.
Here’s one adumbrative example. In 2013, a man called James Leonard was chock-full by Texas badge for dispatch on U.S. Highway 59. The cops acquired a chase accreditation for his car and begin a safe in the block absolute $201,100 in banknote and a bill of auction for a abode in Pennsylvania. Leonard insisted that the safe belonged to his mother, Lisa Olivia Leonard, and independent her gain from a abode that she had sold. Lisa Olivia Leonard told the authorities the aforementioned thing.
But the badge had added ideas. According to the affirmation filed by Officer John Shaver, “in my experience, accustomed ample amounts of U.S. currently is frequently associated with the actionable narcotics trade. In my experience, Highway 59 is a capital avenue for the carriage of U.S. bill and narcotics in the actionable biologic trade.” In added words, the cops declared the $201,100 to be biologic money and bedeviled it as “contraband” beneath the state’s across-the-board civilian asset damage laws. No biologic accuse were filed in this matter.
Much like Tina Bennis afore her, Lisa Olivia Leonard promptly went to cloister gluttonous the acknowledgment of her property. But she absent too. Earlier this year, the Supreme Cloister beneath to booty up her case.
There was one baby bit of argent lining in Leonard v. Texas, however, and it came in the anatomy of a account apropos the abnegation of certiorari filed by Justice Clarence Thomas. In it, Thomas agreed, for procedural reasons, that the Cloister should not apprehend this accurate case at this accurate time. But Thomas additionally fabricated it bright that back the appropriate case did appear along, he would acquiescently bear the administrative benchslap that civilian asset damage so accurately deserves.
Here’s acquisitive the appropriate case arrives at SCOTUS eventually rather than later. Bennis v. Michigan is an abominable accommodation that has helped to ammunition endless injustices committed by police, prosecutors, and added law administration officials. Its canicule as a Supreme Cloister antecedent deserve to be numbered.
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