Asset Forfeiture Is Tyranny, and Fortunately the Supreme Court Noticed

You may not care what is happening to Jerry Shults and his daughter, Amy Herrig, but you should.Shults and Herrig, owners of the Gas Pipe head shop stores, are in a business at the margins of polite society. There is certainly no room in my lifestyle for their products. But right now, they are victims of government tyranny, and you should care.The Gas Pipe owners were prosecuted by the federal government for drug trafficking and a number of related offenses. But despite the full weight of the federal justice system leveraged against them, Gas Pipe prevailed in court. They won. But in today's justice system, thanks to asset forfeiture, their nightmare isn't over.That's because, under today's asset forfeiture practices, the feds were able to seize millions of dollars' worth of cash, airplanes, vehicles, and real estate, including an exotic fishing camp, even without a conviction. And the feds won't return any of it, even though the Justice Department lost the case.When I speak to groups about asset forfeiture, peoples' first reaction is generally "this can't be legal. This can't be Constitutional." And it isn't. In order to defend asset forfeiture, governments have to weasel their way around any number of Constitutional provisions.For one, asset forfeiture is clearly a violation of the Fifth Amendment's protection against uncompensated takings from private citizens. It's also a violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against being tried twice for the same charge. For Gas Pipe owners to get their property back, they had to again secure counsel and return to court, where the federal government is using the same arguments against them a second time, even though the retailer already won the criminal case.  Continue reading...

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