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Small Victory On Civil Asset Forfeiture




There’s a great article in this week’s editions of The Daily Signal – the official media mouthpiece of the Heritage Foundation – detailing a modest break in the federal government’s inflexible views on civil asset forfeiture.

What is civil asset forfeiture?  Easy: It’s when government steals your stuff – without convicting you of a crime.

According to reporter Melissa Quinn, roughly 700 cases in which assets were seized due to “structuring” allegations leveled by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will result in victims “having the opportunity to file petitions for remission or mitigation.”

How much money are we talking about?

According to the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Justice, the IRS seized approximately $250 million in such cases between 2005 and 2012.

“Structuring” involves making multiple transactions of less than $10,000 (ostensibly intended to evade federal reporting requirements).

“In case you didn’t know, depositing or withdrawing just under $10,000 from your bank account multiple times is viewed as suspicious and possibly criminal activity,” the website Zero Hedge noted.

This website has railed repeatedly against this unconstitutional practice (see herehere and here).

“It’s wrong – at any level of government,” we wrote last June.

Obviously this isn’t a major win on this front.  Government is still allowed to take your stuff – and take it without first proving that you did anything wrong (or that your assets were connected to any alleged wrongdoing).

Also, there is no guarantee the victims in these 700 cases will get any of their money back.

Still, though, government is admitting its theft – and at least creating a mechanism for some of the money to be returned.  That’s not real civil asset forfeiture reform, but it is a small step in the right direction.

Liberty lovers should push hard in the wake of this particular door being inched open …