Tag Archives: theft by government

Wyoming judge rules against theft by government

Good work if you can get it: A Wyoming judge today ordered the state to return a man’s life savings, $92K in cash, that police officers confiscated for no reason during a traffic stop.

Parhamovich told The Associated Press that he was traveling to several performances in Western states and decided to bring his “life savings” because maintenance staff often came into his rented apartment in Madison, Wisconsin. The 50-year-old hid the money inside a speaker he was bringing along on the trip.

While driving near Cheyenne on March 13, officers with the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations pulled him over. Parhamovich said officers questioned him about whether any drugs or large amounts of cash were in the car and then used a police dog before physically searching through his minivan and finding the money. Parhamovich said the officers implied that carrying that much cash was illegal. He lied and said it was a friend’s. Parhamovich said officers then told him that he could leave if he signed a form saying he was giving the $91,800 to the investigative agency for “narcotics law enforcement purposes.”

“I remember asking them a bunch of times: ‘What happens if I don’t sign this?'” Parhamovich said. “I couldn’t get a straight answer. What I was told kind of made it seem like I would go to jail or they’d detain me for a long time.”

He drove away with a $25 ticket for failing to wear a seatbelt, he said.

This behavior by the police and the state government is wrong and immoral on so many levels it is hard to count them all. Here are a few: It is not illegal to carry lots of cash. The Constitution expressly forbids the taking of private property without just compensation. Parhamovich was never charged with any crime and yet the state tried to keep his money.

There’s more in the article, including another case where Wyoming stole almost a half a million from an innocent citizen, never charged him with a crime, and was still allowed to keep the money because the state supreme court said it was okay for the state to steal.

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Florida passes law outlawing theft by government

Good news: Florida’s Republican governor today signed a law that forbids state police from seizing any property from any citizen unless they actually arrest and charge that person with a crime.

The big deal with this particular reform is that, in most cases, Florida police will actually have to arrest and charge a person with a crime before attempting to seize and keep their money and property under the state’s asset forfeiture laws. One of the major ways asset forfeiture gets abused is that it is frequently a “civil”, not criminal, process where police and prosecutors are able to take property without even charging somebody with a crime, let alone convicting them. This is how police are, for example, able to snatch cash from cars they’ve pulled over and claim they suspect the money was going to be used for drug trafficking without actually finding any drugs.

I should also note that getting this law written and passed was spear-headed by the Republicans in Florida’s legislature, though Democrats there also supported it. I note this not to imply that Republican politicians are great, which they routinely are not, but to note that of the two parties, in recent years it has generally been the Republicans who have opposed asset forfeiture, which I like to call theft-by-government.

Sadly, the Republicans were key players in getting this kind of policy legalized in the first place.

In both cases, it is really the voters who to blame, or to be credited. When the laws were passed allowing police the right to confiscate private property, the voters cheered, thinking such actions would help stop the drug trade (which they were encouraging by buying the drugs). Politicians responded to the voters, and passed the laws, tweaking them as power-hungry politicians do to make them work to the government’s favor, not the citizens. Now, having realized how bad these laws are, the voters are electing politicians who want to remove the laws. That pressure is resulting in laws like this.

Milton Friedman explained this process quite wisely many years ago.

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