In a free society it is critical to make sure that law enforcement is properly situated within the organizational structure and that it has strong and transparent systems of control.
In order to combat crime, we cede extraordinary powers to law enforcement which, if abused, could lead to the destruction of our society. That makes it essential that systems exist to insure law enforcement entities are responsive to the people they serve.
Asset forfeiture (particularly as it has expanded under the drug war) undermines the essential structure of a free society by weakening the fiscal authority of the employers (the people).
We’ve already seen how this happens with police agencies shifting their allegiance to the federal government in order to bypass state law and get a big chunk of federal forfeiture dollars that they can control.
Americans for Forfeiture Reform point out how bizarre this has come: What’s wrong with thes story?
Precinct 3 Commissioner John Roth […] asked Sheriff Larry Fowler to use some of his forfeiture funds â€” from the seizure of cash and property â€” to rescue the fiscal year 2011-12 general fund, where commissioners seek $2 million in cuts.
â€œYou know weâ€™re in a tough spot,â€ he said as he confronted the sheriff. â€œIâ€™m asking you to see how much money could go into the [general fund] budget. How much do you need to keep in reserves?â€
[Sheriff] Fowler had told the court he wanted to use the funds â€” which he estimated at about $350,000 â€” to augment the low salaries of dispatchers and clerical personnel over the next two years.
â€œBasically, I have the money to do this,â€ he said
As Americans for Forfeiture Reform note:
The fact that this council has to negotiate with armed men over how public money is spent makes a mockery of Americaâ€™s founding principles.
The awesome wickedness of asset forfeiture aside, I don’t see a problem with this minor negotiation. Probably, state law gives the forfeiture money or a portion of it to the LEA which seized the money to spend on general budget items. The argument here seems to be city council saying, “c’mon, give us that money, we need it.”
It is a question of government structure. If city council is funding the sheriff’s department, they could just cut the department’s budget by 350,000. If they are not funding, then they must plead.
Also note this seems to have gone to court. The good news here is that at least the sheriff seems to be following the law and obeying court rulings. You will know when things have totally flown off the rails when they stop listening to the court, as happened in Phoenix last year. Judges and city council afraid of the sheriff, my God.
We at least still control which laws we wish to support; here’s my latest rant:
Due to the tyrannic and mindless actions of prohibitionists, tens of millions of people world-wide (both users and non-users) have either been killed, maimed, incarcerated or had their lives seriously disrupted. Prohibitionists are solely responsible for an immense increase in violent organized crime, an AIDS Pandemic and a grave abuse of human rights on a scale barely witnessed in human social history.
Due to corporate greed and individual bigotry, we have accelerated towards a situation where all the usual peaceful and democratic methods needed to reverse the acute damage done by prohibition have become a near impossibility. Such a political impasse coupled with great economic tribulation is precisely that which, throughout history, has invariably ignited violent revolution.
In order to avert what will surely be a far more violent situation than we are all presently experiencing, there appears to be just one last avenue left to us – Jury Nullification.
Jury Nullification is a constitutional doctrine that allows juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but who donâ€™t deserve punishment. All non-violent drug offenders, be they users, dealers or importers, fall into this category. If you believe that prohibition is a dangerous and counter-productive policy, then you donâ€™t have to help to apply it. Under the Constitution, when it comes to acquittals, you, the juror, have the last word!
The idea that jurors should judge the law, as well as the facts, is a proud and vital component of American history.
The most shining example of Jury Nullification occurred during the shameful period in US history when slavery was legal. People who helped slaves escape were committing a federal crime – violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Jurors would often acquit, even when the defendants admitted their guilt. Legal historians credit these cases with advancing the abolition of slavery.
No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer; only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution? – When called for Jury Service concerning any non-violent prohibition-related offense, it is your moral and civic duty to VOTE TO ACQUIT!
I’ve got to admit that I found the actions of the jurors in that Montana case a few months back a better strategy than waiting until after the trial. To refresh your memory, during voir dire the prosecutor asked potential jurors en masse if they had a problem convicting the defendant of petty possession of cannabis. The result was an inability to seat a jury because the potential jurors just said no. From time to time I wonder just how many would have been seated and voted to convict absent the person who started the “juror’s revolt” during voir dire.
Making a mockery of those 56 old white men in 1776 Philadelphia is so commonplace nowadays that it would be easier to list the things today that don’t do that. Here, I’ll start the list:
Allowing the police to keep any portion of forfeited assets is a colossal blunder of Olympic proportions.
In the annals of history, nothing similar to forfeiture has ever turned out well.
Former Drug Czar Peter Bensinger was responsible for setting the drug forfeiture wheels into motion. According to a Bensinger interview, he based the idea on a recommendation he received from some guy in Florida. For his efforts, Peter Bensinger will forever be infamous for re-establishing an easily corruptible and thus formerly obsolete means of judicially sanctioned theft.