Your House is Under Arrest-The Police Get Paid To Take Your Stuff

Posted on 08/24/2009


If government agents seize your property under civil asset forfeiture,
you can forget about being innocent until proven guilty, due process
of law, the right to an attorney, or even the right to trial. All of
those rights only exist if you are charged with a criminal offense;
that is, with an offense which could result in your imprisonment. If
you (or your property) are accused of a civil offense (offenses which
could not result in your imprisonment)

, the Supreme Court has ruled
that you have no presumption of innocence, no right to an attorney,
and no protection from double jeopardy.

Seizure occurs when government takes away your property.
Forfeiture is when legal title is permanently transferred to the
state. To get seized property returned, you have to fight the full
resources of your state or federal government; sometimes both! You
have to prove your property’s “innocence” by documenting how you
earned every cent used to pay for it. You have to prove that neither
you nor any of your family members ever committed an illegal act
involving the property.

To get a trial, you have to post a non-refundable “bond” of 10%
of the value of your property. You have to pay attorney fees ranging
from $5,000 to over $100,000 out of your own pocket. Money you pay
your attorney is also subject to seizure (either before or after the
trial) if the government alleges that those funds were “tainted.” And
you may be forced to go through trial after trial, because under civil
seizure the Constitutional protection against “double jeopardy”
doesn’t apply. Once your property is seized, expect to spend years
fighting government agencies and expect to be impoverished by legal
fees with no guarantee of winning while the government keeps your
car, home and bank account.

In fact, in a recent Supreme Court decision (Bennis v. Michigan),
the Court said explicitly that innocent owners can be deprived of
their property if it’s used to facilitate a crime, even without the
owner’s knowledge or consent. That means you can now lose your home or
business because of the action of employees, relatives, or guests,
over whom you have absolutely no control.

Police And Prosecutors Have The Incentive
To Confiscate As Much As Possible
Not only do police and prosecutors have the power to seize
anything you own on the slightest pretext, they also have the
incentive. The dirty little secret of the forfeiture racket is that
police, prosecutors and judges can benefit personally by stealing your

Brenda Grantland America’s leading asset forfeiture defense
attorney gives these examples of government greed in her book “Your
House Is Under Arrest”:

Suffolk County, New York. District Attorney James M. Catterton drives
around in a BMW 735I that was seized from an alleged drug dealer. He
spent $3,412 from the forfeiture fund for mechanical and body work,
including $75 for pin-striping.

Warren County, New Jersey. The assistant chief prosecutor drives a
confiscated yellow Corvette.

Little Compton, Rhode Island. The seven member police force received
$3.8 million from the federal forfeiture fund, and spent it on such
things as a new 23-foot boat with trailer, and new Pontiac Firebirds.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The head of one Los
Angeles police forfeiture squad claims his group personally pocketed
over $60 million in seized property.

Why do our courts tolerate these outrageous legalized thefts?
Because they get their cut. It’s completely legal for confiscated
property to be used by police, prosecutors and judges, so long as it’s
for official business. In 1996, a federal district court even ruled
that police can personally receive 25% of the value of any confiscated
home, car, or business.

Some Police Will Kill You For Your Property
In Malibu, California, park police tried repeatedly to buy the
home and land of 61-year-old, retired rancher Don Scott, which was
next to national park land. Scott refused. On the morning of October
2, 1992, a task force of 26 LA county sheriffs, DEA agents and other
cops broke into Scott’s living room unannounced. When he heard his
wife, Frances, scream, he came out of his upstairs bedroom with a gun
over his head. Police yelled at him to lower his gun. He did, and they
shot him dead.

Police claimed to be searching for marijuana which they never
found. Ventura County DA Michael Bradbury concluded that the raid was
“motivated at least in part, by a desire to seize and forfeit the
ranch for the government . . . [The] search warrant became Donald
Scott’s death warrant.”

We Must Stop Asset Forfeiture Now
As police confiscations become more and more outrageous,
opposition has been mounting. California and several other states
defeated draconian forfeiture laws a few years ago, and the Supreme
Court rendered several hopeful decisions. But improvement was

Federal, state and local governments are again expanding
confiscation with little concern for justice. The latest targets:
doctors who resist government-controlled medicine . . . Businesses
that employ illegal aliens (who sew most clothing and harvest many
crops) . . . and gun owners.

Anything you own now can be seized at any time. Every week over
5000 innocent Americans like you now lose their cars, bank accounts,
homes or businesses, without ever being charged with a crime.

What can you do to protect yourself? Read books like Brenda
Grantland’s “Your House Is Under Arrest” (available from ISIL). Demand
of your representatives why they’re voting for these outrageous laws.
Speak out on talk radio, through letters, newspaper editorials, and
Internet forums. Contribute to groups that are fighting police
confiscation, like ISIL and FEAR.

The fight against civil asset forfeiture is a battle for your
freedom and property. If confiscation isn’t stopped, liberty and
justice will soon be fading memories. Help stop the looting of America
now, before it’s too late.


Jarret B. Wollstein is a member of ISIL’s Board of Directors and a
founder of the original Society for Individual Liberty.

Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR)
P. O. Box 33985
Washington, DC 20033-3985 USA
tel.: (888) FEAR-001 (332-7001)

This pamphlet was originally published in 1993 and revised in May 1997
and again in January 1998. It is part of ISIL’s educational pamphlet
series. Click here for the full index of pamphlets online.