When the so-called War on Drugs began in the 1980's. People have had money, cars, and other property seized by police officials on the mere suspicion of drug related activity. Some of those who had property 'forfeited' were never charged with any crime.
It takes months and funds to have property returned. Anyone who travels with cash on hand can have this happen to them:
Still, the search turned up no drugs of any kind, and the officers finally told Ramirez that he was free to go--but not before confiscating $6,000 of his money in the name of the federal war on drugs in a process known as "forfeiture." Despite check stubs that he says prove that the money came from a car accident settlement reached several months before, and bank records showing that it was withdrawn from his account just prior to the Missouri trip, Ramirez has, to this day, been unable to get his money returned. He shakes his head as he describes it. "All I want is my money back," he says.
In many cases, people like Rudy Ramirez have been suspected of involvement in drug trafficking for no more reason than its being "unusual" in this day and age to possess a thick wad of cash. Take the example of Willie Jones, a landscape architect who was carrying $9,600 through the Nashville airport on his way to buy shrubbery. Or the case of physician Richard Lowe who--distrustful of banks, and with vivid memories of the Great Depression--stockpiled $317,000 in his home in Alabama before finally depositing it in a bank, leading the government to confiscate a full $2.5 million of his life savings for this suspicious behavior.
Ramirez was not charged with any crime. He was not convicted of any crime.
Some changes have been forthcoming to correct injustices like this from happening:
But on August 23rd, 2000, after a difficult seven-year campaign by Republican Congressman Henry Hyde from Illinois, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act finally went into effect--making it more difficult for the federal government to seize property without evidence of wrongdoing. It took a remarkable coalition of conservative and liberal lawmakers, to change a law that everyone from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association has recognized as flawed. And while the reforms come too late to help Rudy Ramirez, they will help to make cases like his rarer.
A clear violation of the 4th Amendment was apparently largely accepted. After all, it was supposedly aimed at drug traffickers and perhaps many people felt that they were immune from it. There wasn't much clamor after this was passed even though it violates the 4th Amendment Rights of everyone, not just suspected criminals. It also, to me, violates the 6th Amendment where we are guaranteed the right to trial and the right to confront witnesses.
The Founders of our country might be holding their heads in shame at the violations of rights going on in our country today.
I read John Adams by David McCullough. John Adams was the lawyer for the British soldiers arrested for their part in the Boston Massacre. When asked why, he stated "The reason is because it's of more importance to the community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished".
A lot of Americans seem to content with giving away their rights in an effort to feel safer. Three years ago, the Adam Walsh Act was passed. This Act violates several rights. Some provisions of it are so bad, even Texas may refuse to enact it. This Act is retroactive and forces those who were convicted of sex crimes decades ago to register as sex offenders. Many of those who are required to do so have lived years without committing any other crimes and yet they still must register. Kids who are 17 and have sex with their 16 year old girlfriend or boyfriend and are convicted of statutory rape, have to register.
Many may not care that the 8th Amendments Rights of these individuals are being violated. An over abundance of fear has once again led to the erosion of precious rights. Other aspects of the Adam Walsh Act seem to violate the 5th and 6th Amendments as well.
I'm one of the guilty ones who wasn't too concerned about the Passage of the Patriot Act after 9-11. I was angry at what had happened to our country. I was in fear of another attack and so I too was one of those who made the tacit decision to give up precious rights out of an overabundance of fear and anger.
Those Rights which seem to unduly protect those charged or suspected of crimes are there to protect all of us.
The Bill of Rights are to protect us from kangeroo courts, unlawful searches and seizures, and punishments that are cruel and unusual. These are the Rights our Founders fought for and won against a tyrannical king. The Minute Men, the Continental Army, and the Continental Congress were not fearful about fighting the might of the British Empire. From the Declaration of Independence:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
2.1 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
2.2 That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
2.3 Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
2.4 But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
Are we so fearful a breed of United States citizens that we are willing to abrogate precious rights out of fear? I do not like firearms. I cannot see the justice of 2nd Amendments Rights being taken away. It is as unjust as the violations of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendment rights which have been taken away these past 20 or so years. Only a clamor(contacting your Representatives) can change the course of the unjust violations. The 2nd Amendment is just as important as the other the other 26.