An Abuse of Power

horwitzIn 1928, Supreme Court Justice Brandeis wrote “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

On October 28, 2014, the New York Times ran an article about the IRS abusing civil forfeiture laws by seizing bank accounts on mere suspicion. The owners were often not charged with a crime, but must prove themselves innocent to get their money back.

The taking of money is not limited to bank accounts. People traveling in the U.S. by air with large amounts of cash have been subject to seizures on mere suspicion. What shows up in a TSA x-ray can wind up being seized by law enforcement. Seizures on mere suspicion also occur during routine car stops when police find large amounts of cash.

The victims of seizures, though not charged with a crime, must prove that the cash or account is not from illegal activity or to be used to commit a crime. Imagine that your bank account is seized and that you must prove you are innocent and deserve the return of the money. Many people cannot afford an attorney to help them, especially after the government seizure.

Another complaint about seizures without an arrest is that law enforcement uses the money to supplement their budgets. Many have complained that this gives an improper motive to some seizures on mere suspicion.

The use of civil forfeiture to deprive law abiding citizens of their bank accounts, cash and other assets, on mere suspicion is an example of the great danger to liberty recognized by Justice Brandeis and stems from well-meaning legislation that is subject to abuse.

Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
17 East Pine Street
Orlando, FL 32801
P: 407-843-7733
F: 407-849-1321

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