This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will make a decision on the power police have to confiscate property such as cars, jewelry, and cash from private citizens – and keep it.
The Rutherford Institute is reporting that it has joined with the ACLJ and the Cato Institute in a friend-of-the-court brief in the case Culley v. Marshall.
The groups are arguing "against the government’s use of delaying tactics in asset forfeiture proceedings which make it difficult for individuals innocent of any wrongdoing to timely recover their property—especially cars and cash—seized by police who stand to profit from the forfeiture."
"Asset forfeiture is the government’s new, twisted form of guilt by association. Only it’s not the citizenry being accused of wrongdoing, just their money," said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People.
"What this adds up to is a paradigm in which Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights, and liberties. All you have to be is in possession of something the government wants."
Assets are subject to forfeiture in a number of ways. Virtually none of them routinely end up with the property being returned or the owner getting compensation.
Rutherford reported, "Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where government agents (usually the police) seize private property they 'suspect' may be connected to criminal activity, then whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property, often divvying it up with the local police who did the initial seizure."
The organization continued, "Relying on the topsy-turvy legal theory that one’s property can not only be guilty of a crime but is guilty until proven innocent, government agencies have eagerly cashed in on this revenue scheme."
"By asserting that someone’s property, a building or a large amount of cash for example, is tied to an illegal activity, the government—usually, the police—then confiscates the property for its own uses, and it’s up to the property owner to jump through a series of legal hoops to prove that the property was not connected to criminal activity or that the owner had no involvement or knowledge of the criminal activity."
The organization revealed, "Many of these asset forfeiture cases involve no criminal charge against the property owner. For example, in February 2019, Alabama police seized vehicles belonging to Halima Culley and Lena Sutton while the cars were being used by other individuals accused of drug possession. Although Culley and Sutton were themselves innocent of any wrongdoing, the state seized their vehicles and filed civil asset forfeiture actions to take ownership."
Even though in those cases the vehicles eventually were returned, the innocent taxpayers lost the use of them for more than a year.
The newest case charges that those delays actually violate "due process rights."