Searches and Seizures

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IV- U. S. Constitution

For those who aren’t paying attention, American citizens have lost this right critical to protection from “unreasonable” police power. “Civil asset forfeiture” is legalized thievery used for years since the “War on Drugs” began back in the Nixon administration. Leonard Pitts writing at The Miami Herald exposes this illicit practice (link below).

Mr. Pitts describes the process used by police in traffic stops (he doesn’t mention home invasions) to seize cash or other property without warrants or an arrest. Authorities can take your property with impunity, but you have to hire a lawyer and wait a long time to get it back; or not.

Pitts cites statistics: 55,000 “forfeitures” totaling $3 billion since 2008 here in the Home of the Brave. According to Pitts, this activity “has no discernible impact on the use of illegal narcotics.” In fact, we’ve lost another social war, drug use has thrived at the cost of our property and liberty.

The insidious forfeiture game has gone on too long under the public radar. Surprisingly few people protest this violation of their right to be secure—illustrating another danger of allowing America to slip into a police state: fear of challenging abusive behavior.

Ironically, President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, (considering his lax record on enforcing constitutional law) has announced that he will end this practice at the federal level, but State and local officials also have the power to deprive us of our Fourth Amendment right. Vigilance is one price we must pay for liberty.

Pitts concludes with a scary commentary: “there is something obscene about a practice that incentivizes police to, in essence, steal money from law-abiding citizens and leaves said citizens no reasonable recourse for getting it back.”

Other synonyms for obscene include, offensive, repulsive and disgusting, but we’re getting the government we vote for–as H. L. Mencken would say, “good and hard.”


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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