3 Reasons Trump Is Wrong to Oppose Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Civil asset forfeiture reform is an idea that's time has come, in Texas and elsewhere, whether Donald Trump is ready or not.

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Here are three reasons why President Donald Trump is wrong to oppose civil asset forfeiture reform.

1. Civil forfeiture lets law enforcement basically steal stuff from people.

Civil asset forfeiture allows cops and federal agencies such as the FBI to seize cash and property of suspected criminals but it doesn't require them to bring any charges against their targets or even show that they were in any way involved with wrongdoing.

In 2014, for instance, a Philadelphia couple had their house seized after police arrested their son for possessing $40 worth of heroin while living there. The parents weren't charged with any crime but in Pennsylvania and many other states, owners of seized property must prove their innocence to get their stuff back.

2. Civil forfeiture creates terrible incentives for police.

In many cases, the agency that seizes property and cash gets to keep a big chunk of it to fund purchases of equipment and pay personnel costs. In Mississippi, state narcotics officers alone seized $4 million in cash, cars, and even couches in 2015. In the Magnolia State, cops only get to keep 80 percent of the value of seized assets, but in 26 states law enforcement can keep 100 percent of their asset-forfeiture haul, giving them an incentive to grab as much as possible, especially since it's time-consuming and expensive for defendants to go to court.

3. Civil forfeiture is extremely unpopular.

Although most states do their best to hide how much civil forfeiture goes on, it is an increasingly unpopular practice because it so obviously contravenes basic notions of justice. Even in deep-red states—such as Ohio, Utah, and Mississippi—polls routinely show massive majorities in favor of reform once voters understand just how unfair and non-transparent the process is. In fact, when President Trump threatened to "destroy" the career of a Texas state senator, he could have been referring to any of four politicians, three Republicans and a Democrat, who were deeply involved in asset-forfeiture reform efforts.

Civil asset forfeiture reform is an idea that's time has come, in Texas and elsewhere, whether Donald Trump is ready or not.

Video written by Nick Gillespie. Graphics and editing by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain.

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100 responses to “3 Reasons Trump Is Wrong to Oppose Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

  1. Yea im not sure due to that one instance he is opposed. It kind of seemed like a warning shot to the sheriff to guilt him away.

    I didnt really follow campaign but is there any other evidence he opposes it at state level?

  2. “Threatened to destroy the career of a state senator.” Is a pretty misleading summary of what that actually was.

      1. It’s okay to misrepresent if it helps your case.

    1. “Offered” to destroy the career of a state senator?

      1. “Donald Trump Literally Insisted That He Should Destroy the Career of a State Senator”

    2. Re: Password: pode$ta,

      Is a pretty misleading summary of what that actually was.

      Pointing out what he said, using his words, is misleading. Pointing out to what others have said in his stead that is misleading IS in itself misleading. In other words, if you point out anything El Se?or Presidente Bananero has said or tweeted, it should be treated as blasphemy.

      1. Pointing out what he said, using his words, is misleading.

        Context is important when editorializing.

        Pointing out to what others have said in his stead that is misleading IS in itself misleading. In other words, if you point out anything El Se?or Presidente Bananero has said or tweeted, it should be treated as blasphemy.

        ? I guess this is sarcasm. Or are you saying that I was being misleading by quoting the video?

    1. “Argument #3 Will Shock You!”

      1. It turns out that every argument is “Trump sucks.”

        1. I thought it was snatch and grab.

  3. I’m focusing on the part where Trump said “can you believe that” after learning that some America-hating legislator wanted the suspect could be convicted before the cops could get “forfeiture money.”

    The body language and the tone of disgust showed how aggravated Trump was that anyone could actually hold that position – conviction should precede forfeiture!

    1. wanted the suspect *to* be convicted

    2. This was also what I found most disturbing. Not a moment’s reflection and an absolute sense that it’s just absurd that anyone would suggest that that poor LEO would have to have some sort of conviction to seize people’s property.

      Just what is this country coming to?

      1. The tone of absolute disgust was what you might expect if Trump had just been told that the legislator had taken a dump in the living room.

        1. Or that the legislator thought that gilded marble columns were gaudy.

      2. The only way I can even slightly justify it is by seeing Trump as a smarmy businessman in a room full of cops. He may well have cultivated the habit of just blowing smoke up the ass of whomever he happens to be talking to, and he may not have even realized what he was saying.

        That’s the best I can do, but it’s only slightly less concerning than the alternative.

        1. I dont know i took it as kind of sarcastic on his part

          1. What leads you to that conclusion?

          2. If it was sarcasm, it was certainly lost on his audience.

    3. Yea after i saw it i think it was more of a warning shot to sheriff kind of embarrassing to bring that up type thing

      1. If that were true, I don’t think he would have nominated Sessions, who’s cut from the same cloth as the sheriff.

        1. Good point. However i think sessions was a big supporter early on. Let’s see how it plays out

          1. True – none of this may mean anything. We’ve all learned hard lessons about thinking we know what Trump is thinking.

  4. What about

    4) It’s blatantly unconstitutional?

    1. OH MY GOD TAKE YOUR MEDS ALREADY

  5. If your major focus is critcizing Donald Trump for the next four years, this seems like a much more constructive way to do it.

  6. OH MY GOD REASON OBVIOUSLY HE WAS JUST JOKING N Y DO U NEED STUFF ANYWAY

  7. Did someone dick up the ordered list HTML, or is my Firefox pants-on-head crazy?

    Cause I see the three reasons numbered as 1., 1. and 1.

    Or is this Gillespie being down with the milennials again?

    1. That’s what I see, too.

    2. And quick look with dev tools says….

      Someone made three separate ordered lists without specifying the start= attribute.

      I’m not judging – today I was completely blind when it came to difference between red and grey in title backgrounds.

      1. But there are many shades of gray, aren’t there?

      2. God damn it, it bothers me so much now.

        [ol] [li]reason #2[/li] [/ol]

        Yes, it’s deprecated HTML because you’re supposed to use or somesuch but it’ll work. I’m 85% sure!

        1. Acutally, ol start was undeprecated in HTML5 in a rare moment of sanity. Although there is a CSS equivalent, it is of course more complicated and harder to remember.

          1. Just saw it, and tried it in firefox dev tools and it works!

            And indeed, undeprecating it is a fine decision that we should all applaud! Why would you remove a useful feature?! GAAGH.

            1. Why would you remove a useful feature?!

              Like blinking and scrolling text?

    3. Also has anyone had trouble with posting? On chrome the comments dont always take

    4. There can be only One

  8. OH MY GOD REASON WELCOME TO NEW SOMALIA MAKE URSELVES COMFORTABLE WE MIGHT BE HERE A WHILE

  9. The only thing clear from the transcript is that Trump had no clue what asset forfeiture is, and was telling his audience what he/they wanted to hear.

    In fact, Reason correctly covered this this very morning. It’s only gone down hill since.

    1. True, but he’s still wrong for opposing it (among other reasons) on the three grounds (well, two, I’m not sure the third is that strong) listed.
      Their Trump coverage generally annoys me, but this is fair.

      1. It is ‘fair’ to criticize Trump here. I’d criticize him for not knowing what the hell he was talking about, for pandering, and ignorantly supporting a policy on the fly that he knew little about. It’s entirely possible Trump will learn about this issue and still support it wrongly. Yet, I don’t even think you can say that he *has* a definitive position on asset forfeiture. He had no clue what the sheriff was even talking about.

        There’s a lot to criticize here. And the first article did the job. Which is not to say there shouldn’t be a follow-up, but said follow-up should not skirt away from the reality of the situation as Nick and other writers have done throughout the day.

        1. From Sullums’ article, it sounds like Trump did learn what it was over the course of the conversation (i.e. cash and other property seized from people not convicted of a crime), and still saw absolutely nothing wrong with it.

          1. Where does anything indicate he learned it was from people not convicted of a crime?

            No where does that come up or get mentioned to him. He in fact states:
            I’d like to look into that, OK? There’s no reason for that. Dana, do you think there’s any reason for that? Are you aware of this?

            So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we’re criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?

            The explanation he was given was:

            I am aware of that, Mr. President. And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime. But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.

            If this was explained to me as taking the proceeds of crimes/criminals or narcotics proceeds, I’d support it, as well (the focus here being on illegal activity irregardless of drug war positions at the moment). Nothing is said on convictions versus a lack of.

          2. He also seems hesitant to even get into the discussion asking for clarification as to what the other side’s argument is. Ignorance is slightly better at best here, but it’s nonsense to claim that in this instance he was articulating any actual position as he had no clue what was being discussed.

  10. 3 Reasons Trump Is Wrong to Oppose Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

    “Hey, as long as he builds that wall and bilks the taxpayers makes Mexico pay for it, he can grab my assets any time he wants!”

    /Trumpista

  11. Donald K Trump – asset-grabber.

    1. L. It’s an L. Damned these Vulcan fingers!

      1. Vulcan fingers make a V…

  12. From the transcript, it almost seems like Trump believes asset forfeiture is about seizing *drugs.*

    “THE PRESIDENT: So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we’re criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?…

    “THE PRESIDENT: Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right? But who would want that pressure? You would think they’d want this stuff taken away.”

    1. Yes. And that is pathetic. He should know what the hell this is by this stage. Regardless, this is why I complained above. It’s simply a mischaracterization to claim that Trump voiced any actual policy position. He’s fucking clueless. Which isn’t much better, but how about we be intellectual honest in our criticisms?

      1. I suppose Sessions will have to delicately explain this to the President.

        SESSIONS: “That’s right, Mr. President, we need the power to take away the dealers’ ill-gotten gains, without it getting tied up in court by the cartels’ attorneys.”

        TRUMP: “Yeah, take those drugs off the streets, I can’t see what that’s even an issue.”

        SESSIONS: “And the ill-gotten gains, you know the cash they get from drug sales, the flashy cars they buy with all that drug money.”

        TRUMP: “Yeah, send those dealers to prison and take fine them into oblivion.”

        SESSIONS: “Right, without it being tied up in court.”

        TRUMP: “We have to go to court to fine and punish them, right?”

        SESSIONS: “Yes, Mr. President, but not for civil forfeiture…”

        TRUMP: “Yeah, taking their drugs off the street, the cops should just take away their cocaine and opioids and shit, I can’t believe they have to go to court for that.”

        SESSIONS: “And the ill-gotten gains, too.”

        TRUMP: “That’s what I said.”

        etc.

        1. SESSIONS: “Look, Mr. President, let’s just say that bad guys hate this one crime-fighting trick.”

          TRUMP: “Awesome, keep doing whatever it is.”

    2. But in response to “what happens to it?” he’s told that it’s shared among law enforcement agencies.

      Now, I wouldn’t rule out that Trump imagined “DEA coke parties” and figured, “yeah, hell, why not for the Boys in Blue?” But I figure it must have dawned on him pretty quickly that they weren’t talking about seized drugs.

      1. Right, assuming he was listening.

        Maybe he realized he’d made a mistake and decided not to make a big deal out of it. “Yeah, forfeit the assets, that’s what I said.”

        What’s he going to do, send a Tweet that “oops, I thought asset forfeiture meant taking illegal drugs off the street, now it turns out it might mean taking people’s property without a trial, boy is my face red, I can’t support *that!*”

        1. Fair enough.

      2. He does seem to comprehend at some point it’s talking about money and profit from crimes. Yet, the key issue with asset forfeiture is:
        1. People are not convicted of crimes – their assets can be taken for mere suspicion based on the word of law enforcement.
        2. There is no legitimate due process involved whatsoever, and the onus is put on the individual to prove their innocence.

        Neither of which is explained. Unless you are an anarchist, there’s not much to oppose here. Even a minarchist would have few objections to taking the proceeds from criminal activity. The part you are quoting is not the key to anything.

  13. Brendan O’Neil, Too Hot For Reason! (or, they posted the article early) Strikes Again

    Calling Trump a Nazi is its own kind of Holocaust denial (how’s that for clickbait headline?)

    The end result? They inflame the prejudices of some of the nastiest people in society: those who’ve always argued that the Holocaust wasn’t such a big deal. The irony is terrible: in the name of standing up to the ‘fascist’ Trump, many on the left fuel the ugly and cynical relativism of those who genuinely have fascistic leanings and who think it’s high time we all accepted that the Holocaust was pretty ordinary.

    1. Who else can I compare Trump to? O. Cromwell was too pious and Reardon metal didn’t use eminent domain.

      1. I like to say, “he’s like that Italian guy…”

        PROG: “I know, Mussolini.”

        ME: “I meant Berlusconi.”

        PROG: “Is he like Mussolini? Because Trump is like Mussolini.”

        1. I don’t think Ezra Pound would be making propaganda for Trump.

          1. Ironically, Pound went to a mental institution and thereby avoided a PMITA prison.

      2. Huey Long? I’m sure every leftist everywhere is hoping for the same ending.

        Idi Amin? Both loud, colorful characters with zest for life.

        King Herod of Judea? I’m sure Ivanka is bound to ask for Colbert’s head any day now.

        1. Why would Ivanka want Colbert’s least valuable part?

          (Or second least valuable, according to what the ladies say)

          1. I dunno, if Bible taught me one thing, it’s that bitches be crazy.

            (Unless they’re called Ruth)

            1. John the Baptist risked his life to criticize the Godless rulers.

              Colbert would quit long before that risk got even *near* that great.

              1. I never said I was a master of analogies.

                But are you telling me Colbert is literally not risking his life every day that Trump is in power? The only reason he’s feeling safe is that he knows Trump’s legions are coming for John Oliver first!

                1. I’m sure if anyone came for Oliver, he would just DESTROY them with a 45-minute, one-sided presentation of an issue.

        2. Curiously they aren’t comparing him to Stalin.

          1. I don’t think even they would accuse Trump of wanting to collectivize private ownership. And of course, the idea of Trump’s Five Year Plan would just jinx their last hope of getting rid of him in 2020.

            1. They’d accuse him of being anyone if it meant they got maximum victim status out it. Trump=Hitler makes as much sense as Trump=Stalin.

  14. OH MY GOD REASON THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!

  15. So it’s pretty much new boss just like the old boss and old old boss etceteras. Except new boss will let me keep my guns, and I may soon be able to by a silencer out of vending machine. I’m still good with all of this.

    1. And you get to grab the bourgeois norms by the pussy.

  16. In the end it doesnt matter if Trump supports or opposes this. It’s Congress’ doing in the first place and the CJ systems has no small part of the blame for not killing this in the crib.

    1. Imagine a President who *opposed* this sort of thing. Opposed it eloquently:

      “SMDH – police work needs to be kept honorable. Arrest criminals, don’t be highway robbers, you’re better than this.”

      1. “While you’re taking Grandma’s life savings, cars filled with robbers, rapists and killers are driving past and they’re laughing at you. #Priorities.”

        1. “It’s cops *and* robbers, not cops and/or robbers, keep your moral compass.”

  17. Bangladesh: Hindu vendor arrested for “insulting Islam” on Facebook

    BUT REICH WING CHRISTIANS ARE JUST AS BAD HERPDERP CHIK FILA HERPDERP CRUSADES!

  18. Paris spending $22,000,000 to build wall around Eiffel Tower to stop jihad terror attacks

    “It’s not a wall, it’s an aesthetic perimeter.”
    -deputy mayor Jean-Fran?ois Martins

    Yeah, and a swastika is just a plus sign doing a cartwheel.

    1. “It’s not like we’re keeping dangerous people out of the country, just away from tourist attractions, that’s totally different from what the cowboy American pigs are doing.”

    2. “It’s not a wall, it’s an aesthetic perimeter.”

      Ha! Let’s put that into our Quiver of Euphemisms, next to yesterdays “don’t call it a tariff, it’s a Border Adjustment”.

      (yes, I’m aware that Quiver of Euphemisms is a euphemism in itself, thank you very much)

      1. These euphemisims are getting pretty obscure.

  19. Article titled “3 reasons” and the reasons are labelled 1., 1., and 1. WTF?

    1. It’s list-based socialism! Make bullet points equal by bringing them all back to the starting point.

      Let me be clear. It is absurd that in a civilized country, the largest numbered reason has as much magnitude as the smallest 67% combined. The system is rigged!

  20. Reform is not an option. CAF should be abolished completely.

  21. Not surprising to me. If you may recall, the President once wanted to evict an elderly person from their property so he could expand his parking lot.

  22. Trump s not libertarian. Trump is not Christian. Trump is a big government control zealot. Trump is a modern day Pharisee. Trump is not a capitalist. He’s a crony capitalist (and I honestly don’t think he knows the difference).
    Moreover, he’s the best the GOP can come up with . . . isn’t that a piece of work?

    1. Still, the morons lined up for it–if only to keep the commie Dems from pushing through a Constitutional Amendment making it a felony to “generate, transmit or commercialize” electrical energy.

  23. There’s one big reason for expanding, not reforming asset seizure.

    To use on political opponents. Just the legal costs of getting some of their stuff back will put a spoke in their wheels.

    Another big reason, for Sessions anyway. He’s very opposed to the presence of Marijuana. Asset Seizure gives him a tool to weild against those irritating scofflaw states that have legalised it, without being tied up by those pesky so-called judges.

    A Third big reason – it gets all the Boss Hoggs on side. That will be needed when it comes to rounding up all the Jews.. sorry. Mexicans and Muslims. The designated scapegoats that are preventing the Nation from being Great Again anyway. Just think how much moola you can get for deporting an illegal and taking all their stuff. Even if they turn out to be US citizens.

    1. Good points. Most of the resident aliens I see deported are tarbrushed by the Deutsche Hauptstelle f?r Suchtfragen DHS for the moral turpitude of possessing either marijuana or a latino stimulant the average citizen cannot distinguish from the ritalin many government entities force on American children in Government Schools. They tried the same method of branding and deporting foreigners as beer fiends during Alcohol Prohibition, but the courts struck that one down.

  24. How about this: civil asset forfeiture violates the Fifth Amendment, which reads “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.co…..ejjQy.dpuf

    And if courts won’t enforce this the people have the right to enforce it by direct action and resistance. That is the moral lesson of the American Revolution.

    1. The moral lesson of the American Revolution is that half the population wanted to continue to lick the blacking off of British boots. That has changed. Today 96% of teevee-crippled voters prefer to lick the blacking off of Entrenched Kleptocracy boots!

  25. If asset forfeiture as a pretext for looting is so unpopular, then why did BOTH entrenched looter parties promise in their platforms to maintain, preserve and defend it against all enemies, foreign AND libertarian? Surely SOMEONE on the Reason staff spent 8 hours pawing through 73000 words of paranoid huffing and mawkish drool to spot that!
    Nor could anything be more obvious than that George Waffen Bush’s faith-based prohibitionist asset-forfeiture campaign–like his Daddy’s before him and Herbert Hoover’s before Bush Daddy’s–CAUSED the goddam crash and deepened the depression after Obama’s band of looters proceeded to gorge its militarized police goons on it!

  26. 3 Reasons Trump Is Wrong to Oppose Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

    Is he going to get it through Congress? If not, it’s not worth wasting time on it.

    Ditto for abolishing the DoE, mandatory voucher programs, etc.

  27. Although most states do their best to hide how much civil forfeiture goes on, it is an increasingly unpopular practice because it so obviously contravenes basic notions of justice. Even in deep-red states?such as Ohio, Utah, and Mississippi?polls routinely show massive majorities in favor of ???? ????? ????? 2 ????? ???? reform once voters understand just how unfair and non-transparent the process is. In fact, when President Trump threatened to “destroy” the career of a Texas state senator, he could have been referring to any of four politicians, three Republicans and a Democrat, who were deeply involved in asset-forfeiture reform efforts.

  28. I looked at the check for $8628 , I didnt believe that…my… father in law was like actualie taking home money in there spare time on there computar. . there sisters roommate haz done this for under 17 months and just cleard the morgage on there apartment and got a gorgeous Chevrolet Corvette . go to websit========= http://www.net.pro70.com

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