Civil Asset Forfeiture

Another Innocent Parent Loses Their Car to Civil Asset Forfeiture

"I work for the state. My job is to take your property from you."


Province of British Columbia

As I've written about time and time again, one of the most pernicious features of civil asset forfeiture is how it can be used to not only seize property based on mere suspicion, but also to seize property from innocent owners who were in no way connected to any alleged illegal activity.

In many cases, this takes the form of police seizing parents' cars because of things their children do. The parents must then prove their innocence to retrieve their own property. Today's bit of anecdotal data comes from Tennessee's Fox13:

Vencie Varnado said he fell victim to the system in April, when Millington police seized his Mercedes after his son was arrested for marijuana possession. What followed was a six month battle between Varnado and a law loosely regulated by the State's Department of Safety.

"His job was to take my property away from me," Varnado said, describing an employee at the Tennessee Department of Safety the day he went to get his car back from the state.

"I asked him if he had any interest in an innocent owner," Varnado added. "He said, 'No. I work for the state. My job is to take your property from you.'"

Varnado maintains he is the innocent owner of the car. He provided the title to FOX13, proving he is the sole owner of the vehicle. When he took his proof to authorities, Varnado said they treated him like the criminal, asking him to pay more than $3,000 to buy his car back from the police department.

Reason has previously written about similar cases, such as a Washington couple who are challenging Arizona's asset forfeiture laws after police seized their car while their son was driving through the state. Or another Arizona lawsuit brought by a mother whose truck was seized because her son borrowed it and installed stolen parts. Or a case in New Mexico, where a woman is suing Albuquerque for seizing her car after her son was arrested for drunk driving. In one of the more infamous asset forfeiture cases, the Philadelphia District Attorney seized a couple's house after their son was arrested for selling $40 worth of drugs outside.

There's also cases where children's assets are seized for the suspected crimes of their parents. The San Diego District Attorney seized the savings accounts of two teenagers because their father ran a medical marijuana company.

Shrewd observers might notice a pattern emerging. Law enforcement organizations say civil asset forfeiture is a critical tool to stop drug traffickers and organized criminal operations, but civil liberties groups say the perverse profit incentives created by asset forfeiture lead just as often to everyday citizens being shaken down.

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  1. There are those who walk among us who have no soul. They feed off the fear tears,income and property of the living. They exist in the nether world of government. They could be your neighbors. They use words like’ I don’t write the law,I just enforce it’. Be afraid,be very afraid,

    1. Do crosses and Holy Water fend them off? Or do you recommend wood-chippers, or battery-acid baths?

      1. or D all of the above?

      2. Tar, feathers, fence rails.

        Or the old standby of rope and lamp post.

    2. These soulless unclean things you speak of have a name: progressives.

  2. Hey whiny babies, Obama’s America is not great either.

    1. But it’s so inclusive. Everyone can suffer together!

      Except white people. Fuck them. They deserve an extra helping of suffering.

      1. That must be the privilege I keep hearing so much about.

  3. “…Law enforcement organizations say civil asset forfeiture is a critical tool to stop drug traffickers and organized criminal operations…”

    I’m saying they mean Jose’, who they caught with a joint on the same block where his parents car is parked.

    1. Oh, Thank Zod! They finally found something that works!

      I mean, this has really put a dent in drug trafficking and organized crime, right? RIGHT???

      /Screwing over Jose’s life? Feature, not bug.

  4. When he took his proof to authorities, Varnado said they treated him like the criminal, asking him to pay more than $3,000 to buy his car back from the police department.

    Yep, they were “asking”. Usually the hostage negotiations from the criminal side is referred to as “making demands”. But you just go ahead being shocked and puzzled that the power of the state could somehow inexplicably wind up being used against a nice normal average citizen like yourself in this one isolated incident of some sort of bureaucratic snafu. I mean, you go down there and explain that you’re a nice guy and that almost always clears things right up, doesn’t it? Surely the cops 99.999% of the time are going after the bad guys and not nice people such as yourself. Aren’t they? I suppose it’s easier to just keep assuming the people authorized to use force are the good guys than it is having to do some serious reflection on the “what if?” question of what happens when the people authorized to use force are not the good guys.

    1. Cops don’t enjoy screwing you, just as porn actors don’t enjoy screwing each other.

      1. Bullshit. There are cops out there that get a chubby when they exercise power over others. That’s why they became cops.

    2. Robespierre’s Law: The power you give the government to do unto others will be used to do unto you.

  5. Putting aside the argument over whether civil forfeiture is constitutional – it isn’t – couldn’t opponents put a big dent in the practice by simply tightening up the definition of “used in the commission of”? Or at the very least require some proportionality between the contraband and/or offense, and the value of the property seized?

    The kid in question got busted only for possession, which means he probably had less than $100 of weed on him. Yet the cops get to seize a Mercedes? Because the car was ostensibly used in the commission of the crime?

    There’s a good argument to be made that a car is never germane to a crime unless it was used as a premeditated getaway car, or your charges include trafficking.

    1. A couple of states have passed reform the asset forfeiture laws by requiring a conviction. Both for the person that actually committed the crime, and the seized assets. Some states also require that any seized funds go into the state general fund, rather than the seizing agency.

      That said, there is currently a massive loophole with the feds equitable sharing program. Basically, The local cops call in the feds, the feds take 20% and the local PD keeps 80%.

      You can probably guess the biggest group blocking more reforms .

  6. The San Diego case is significantly more egregious than the others for a couple reasons:

    1) No crimes were in fact committed by anyone at any time. The raid was based on bogus information or a misunderstanding of laws pertaining to the product sold(THC oil). No charges have ever been filed against anyone, ever. The raid was almost a year ago, yet after all this time having the “evidence” to “investigate,” the scumbag authoritarian DA Bonnie Dumanis can’t come up with any crimes to charge, while continuing to refuse to give the money back because forfeiture fights crime. It’s time to shit or get off the pot, Bonnie.
    2) They also stole the bank accounts from everyone else in the family leaving them literally penniless overnight without warning, save whatever cash/precious metals/cryptocurrency they hopefully squirreled away. Is it a coincidence that governments everywhere are always trying to limit possession of these same things?

  7. “I work for the state. My job is to take your property from you.”

    Best, most honest description of government work I’ve ever seen.

    1. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help (cart away your stuff).”

    2. Yes. Concise, direct, succinct, clear. It puts everything the State does in the proper perspective.

    3. Which is why I have difficulty dredging any care from Give-A-Fuck Bay when one of them stops a bullet.

  8. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….


  9. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do,


  10. “Law enforcement organizations say…”

    Whatever bullshit sounds best. For the most part, ignoring what people say and observing what they do is the best way to gauge people’s intentions.

  11. When are people going to learn that they don’t own anything, not even the clothes on their backs? Anything they have, they have at the sufferance of police who will take it for any reason or no reason, just because. And if you object, they’ll beat you, or shoot you, and say “Fuck you, that’s why!”

  12. It is time to take our country back from corrupt and tyrannical local, state and federal officials all aided by a corrupt court system. If these folks in the government won’t “police themselves” then it is time the citizenry stands up and overthrows them. They need to keep in mind how our nation was formed. It is our patriotic dupty to make sure our government is “of the people, for the people and by the people”!

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