Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Asset Forfeiture: “This System has led to Egregious and Well-Chronicled Abuses!”
I have been one that has spoken out on the unconstitutional tyranny involving asset forfeiture, something that President Donald Trump has supported and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch supported, as well. Last week, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has some strong words to say regarding the practice, whereby police can simply take money or property and assume guilt until the person proves their innocence which is not only a violation of the person’s rights that are to be protected under the Fifth Amendment, but also turns justice on its head.
The Supreme Court refused to hear a case, Leonard v. Texas, related to civil asset forfeiture last Monday. However, that did not stop Justice Clarence Thomas from offering an opinion on the matter.
“This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses,” wrote Thomas. “I am skeptical that this historical practice is capable of sustaining, as a constitutional matter, the contours of modern practice.”
National Review reports:
According to the facts of the petition, a Texas police officer stopped James Leonard and Nicosa Kane on April 1, 2013, for a traffic infraction. A search of the vehicle yielded the discovery of a safe in the trunk, which contained $201,100 and a bill of sale for a Pennsylvania home. The money was seized because law-enforcement officials believed that it was “substantially connected to criminal activity,” including the sale of narcotics. James Leonard’s mother, Lisa Olivia Leonard, claimed to be the rightful owner of the money from the house sale and sued the government to regain it. But because she didn’t raise her due-process claims at the trial level, the Supreme Court declined to hear her case, leaving her with little recourse.
The whole procedure seemed wrong to Thomas, and not just because neither Leonard nor Kane had been charged with a crime. Thomas cites multiple examples of other individuals who had their property seized by the police with dubious justification, noting that “forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.”
Americans have a right to presumed innocence, making the idea of the government’s seizing property without due process incompatible with the Constitution and our founding principles. However, this has not stopped law enforcement from commonly using the practice — known as civil asset forfeiture — to seize property they have “probable cause” to believe was involved in criminal activity.
Because this is a civil procedure, the government doesn’t have to establish guilt before seizing the property in question. If the owner wants to reclaim it, he or she must prove to the government that it has no connection to criminal activity. This turns the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head.
That’s exactly right!
Furthermore, it was former Attorney General Loretta Lynch who claimed that asset forfeiture was an “effective tool” against crime. However, it is clearly unconstitutional and immoral, which makes it unlawful. in 2013, her office illegally seized over $904 million in asset forfeitures. Additionally, we know the FBI hides payments to informants, and then gives them a cut of asset forfeiture proceeds. Again, all of this is unconstitutional and illegal.
In 2014, the Justice Department violated the Constitution by seizing $4.5 billion in assets from American citizens who had not even gone to trial!
Justice Thomas is correct and the people better demand better from Trump and Congress or the tyranny is simply going to continue against innocent people.