By Colonel Mike Angley
“Civil asset forfeiture is a legal tool that allows law enforcement officials to seize property that they assert has been involved in certain criminal activity. (The) police can seize your car, home, money, or valuables without ever having to charge you with a crime.” ~The Heritage Foundation, ‘Civil Asset Forfeiture: 7 Things You Should Know’
You read that right. Law enforcement has the legal authority to seize your property based upon the mere suspicion that the property is somehow connected to criminal activity. No warrants are required, and while you may technically have a due process right to demand its return, few people are ever successful in that right’s exercise.
Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF) has roots in common law and has become a tool of law enforcement at every level: federal, state, and local. Its more modern intent is to crack down on organized criminal enterprise (racketeering, for example), where oftentimes the fruits of the crime, if not seized, would leave the criminal wealthy even after doing jail time.
It’s been invoked with increasing frequency in recent years. In some places, it’s become almost vogue. Much of this is driven by the fact that it is easy for law enforcement to do; usually goes unchallenged; and, there are few limitations or rules on how it’s conducted.
When law enforcement seizes money or property, it can be repurposed by the agency doing the seizure. Many police departments have relied upon it to fatten skimpy budgets. In other words, CAF creates a perverse incentive for law enforcement to use it as a tool to generate revenue for their departments.
The United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that it is a lawful law enforcement tool, despite thousands of horror stories each year in which the innocent lose what they own, even when it’s genuinely the fruit of their hard labor, and not at all connected to a crime.
As someone who holds our Constitution dearly, I cannot help but believe that in most cases, CAF violates the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections, and the Sixth Amendment’s due process guarantees. Unfortunately, courts have yet to see it the same way.
It is also a subject on which the right and the left are in rare agreement. I cited the Heritage Foundation’s article, above, but the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union has also come out swinging against it: ‘Asset Forfeiture Abuse.’
During my quarter-century career in law enforcement, I never engaged in CAF. For every seizure of assets, I either had a search warrant to back me up or the item was contraband in plain view.
As a candidate for Sheriff of El Paso County, Colorado, I’m often asked where I stand on CAF. I am against CAF in principal and will only use it if the evidence of actual criminal activity is clear. For example, if my deputies raid an illegal marijuana grow house and find $20,000 in cash on a table near the drug stash, then that’s reasonably the fruit of criminal enterprise.
I have been vocal about my crime priorities, among which is a plan to crack down on organized criminal activities (gangs in particular). Legalized, recreational marijuana has led to an increase in organized criminal networks that grow the drug here and distribute it throughout the United States and even to other countries.
We have Mexican drug cartel influence in my county now, as well as Cuban organized crime, all taking advantage of legal loopholes and the potency of our marijuana crops. I will need every tool at my disposal to crack down on these elements, to include CAF. But as I noted above, we will use it sparingly and only in those cases in which the asset’s connection to bona fide crime is clear cut.
In other words, for its original, intended purpose. In government today, that’s a revolutionary concept.
Honest, hardworking, law-abiding citizens need not fear CAF under Sheriff Mike. I am committed to protecting and preserving everyone’s natural rights and to respecting the Bill of Rights that enshrines them.
Civil Asset Forfeiture should never become Natural Rights Forfeiture. Innocent people need protection from government, and not to become victim of it. Predatory and perverse law enforcement practices are reprehensible and must stop. I will NOT engage in them as Sheriff. We the People deserve nothing less.
Colonel Michael (“Mike”) Angley is retired from the United States Air Force, a published thriller author, and a conservative writer who fashions himself as Attila the Hun with a laptop. Mike wrote for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and Big Peace blogs before the Breitbart consolidation, receiving superb feedback and kudos for typically weaving in pop culture references with his far right perspectives. He enjoys writing about military affairs, national security issues, and politics and is an avid Second Amendment advocate. When he’s not writing, he’s busy annoying liberals with FaceBook posts and Twitter tweets that point out the obvious flaws and fallacies of the left.
During his 26-year USAF career, the Colonel was a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). The OSI is a sister agency to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and has an identical mission that includes felony-level criminal, fraud, and narcotics investigations as well as counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations. His USAF experiences spanned multiple regions around the globe with five command assignments and duties at foreign, regional, theater and national levels.
He is a seasoned counterintelligence and counterespionage officer from the Cold War era, and if you ask him he’ll tell you the spy-vs-spy days were indeed the heady, glory era of espionage. During the latter half of his career he focused on counterterrorism missions in the Middle East and the Far East and operationalized many of today’s concepts for this unique arena while working the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a few other “choice” locations. When Colonel Angley retired in 2007, he was a Senior Supervisory Special Agent and was in command of all worldwide OSI matters at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, CO.
Mike Angley is also a published, award-winning author of three thriller novels in the “Child Finder” trilogy. His debut novel, “Child Finder,” received a glowing review from the Library Journal which placed it on its Summer Reading list in 2009. “Child Finder” and its companion sequel novels all won various awards from the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) and the Public Safety Writers Association. In 2012, Mike was named MWSA’s “Author of the Year,” largely for work on his third novel, “Child Finder: Revelation.”
As an avid user of social media, Mike can be found and friended on Facebook (mike.angley) and followed on Twitter (@MikeAngley). His website is www.mikeangley.com. Following his USAF retirement, Mike and his family stayed in Colorado Springs, CO where they enjoy daily, majestic views of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains.