Even though individuals have a right to property, the government likes to find sneak ways to take our stuff. And they make it difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Emma.
Emma: So this week, a social media post by a Dallas police officer slash police force went viral online and it was a pretty crazy one, I have to say. Brittany, did you catch this one online?
Brittany: Yes, I did. And I was reading the comments because I always love to see that they’re knocking a whole lot of support, but I, don’t get ahead of it. I’ll let you tell, why.
Emma: Awesome. So this social media post, it was from, like I said, a police force. It showed this police dog, a super cute German Shepherd dog sitting in front of this huge pile of cash. It was, I think it was a hundred thousand dollars in cash. And here was, here’s what the caption was, we need to get him some treats. K-9 Officer Valentine does it again. On December 2nd, 2021, the Lovefield interdiction squad seized over a hundred thousand dollars with the help of Valentine. Good job, Valentine. And a lot of people got really upset about this post, understandably so. I was one of them. I would guess that Britney was one of them and this is because they had absolutely no grounds to take that money. And I know that we’ve done, an episode back earlier in the show, I think it was pretty early on Yes. about civil asset forfeiture and what it is. And that’s what happened here. It’s basically when the government, it gets suspicious about someone or they get some sort of tip or finds out that someone has a bunch of cash on them and they just take it. And there’s no real explanation as to why they’re able to take it. They, don’t really have to give much of a reason. The person doesn’t even have to be charged with a crime or even arrested. And that’s what happened with this woman. She had a checked bag, I believe, with just cash in it. And while that might seem kind of suspicious to people, just suspicion is not a good enough reason to take away, you know, six figures’ worth of money from somebody and she wasn’t even arrested at all. So we’ve talked, like I said, about civil asset forfeiture and what it is. Brittany, do you wanna give just like a super quick 32nd refresher for anyone who didn’t listen to that episode? Cause I know you’re super good on the legal stuff.
Brittany: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, this was, yeah, something earlier on, not so much anymore, but I used to write about it all the time. Especially I worked for a lot of organizations that were working on ending it. So it’s a serious issue. Now, I do wanna point up by saying we have had some success over the past couple of years of Yeah. People starting to, the court starting to recognize that this is wrong. But the main thing to think about when we talk about civil asset forfeiture is it’s not the person who’s being charged with the crime. It’s the thing which sounds crazy, right? So this lady, I believe it was a lady, yeah, a lady. So she had all this money. We don’t know why. We don’t know what she’s doing. It’s possible she’s, just has her life savings with her. I don’t know, I can’t tell you why maybe she was gonna go buy a house, I don’t know. It could be any reason. Maybe she was doing something wrong. But we have a whole thing in this legal system called Innocent until proven guilty, which you and I just talked about, Emma. So it doesn’t really matter why she had the money. She should, if they were gonna take it, she should have had to be charged with a crime, and then, you know, gone to court, and then they would take the money if they found out there was something wrong. Now, with civil asset forfeiture, they would say that because this lady has the money, the money is the criminal. So here’s the problem. When a money’s a criminal, money can’t really get an attorney, right? Money or money doesn’t have rights. So what they do is they keep it, and then to get it back, you have to go through all sorts of hoops, because remember, it’s not you being charged. Yeah. It’s the thing. So whether it’s a car, sometimes they confiscate cars, they take all sorts of things. Now, here’s what makes it even worse. We’ve talked about incentives almost on probably every episode to some extent. So incentives are, you know, what makes fuel somebody to do something. So Emma, if you wanted to have a living and pay for your house, obviously you have a job. There’s an incentive. Now they let police officers keep the things that they take. There’s something called, oh, it’s like equity sharing. I can’t remember where. It’s a federal policy where if police officers locally, like in your city or county confiscate money or something from you, they give a little bit to the federal government. They’re allowed to keep a large chunk of that. And they buy new police cars. So easy. It’s terrible. And police cars and all these things. So there’s an incentive for police officers to do this. And like, fun little snippet before, kick it back to you. This actually started civil asset forfeiture has its roots in pirates and of course and yeah, and the king’s like it, like trying to take over ships. So there’s a lot of fun stuff there if you wanna Google that. But, yeah, it’s just really crazy because again, they’re not even taking, it’s called civil asset forfeiture. They’re not even taking or charging you with something wrong. They’re just taking your stuff. So it is just nuts.
Emma: It is nuts. And kind of on that note, because o obviously we have a whole episode on civil asset forfeiture. It’s crazy. Like Brittany said, fortunately, we have had a lot of states change their laws on this. And it’s still, you know, it still exists in a lot of places, unfortunately, but there’s hope because more people are realizing that this is the thing, and before we can fix it, people kind of have to know that it’s happening. And there’s so many things like that that the government does, right, where it’s like, this is horrible. I didn’t even know that they had the power to do this. And it’s just because the government is constantly growing its power and growing its control over our lives. And a lot of times we don’t even realize it. So another thing kind of on that note is eminent domain. And this is a super crazy concept where the government can come in and just seize your land. So not even just your money or your car or some sort of personal property, but your land, the place that you live. And they can use it for all sorts of quote-unquote public works projects and things to serve the greater good, right? We always talk about the greater good and how it’s, how it’s kind of a bunch of bologna and it’s an excuse to take our stuff, but yeah, eminent domain is another really crazy thing. Brittany, do you wanna just briefly describe sort of the legal background to this? Cuz I know you’ve done a lot of research on this as well.
Brittany: Yes. And there’s a lot of different reasons for eminent domain. So basically the underlying concept, you know, we’ve talked about road desert him and things like that, where the surfs live on, on a, a Lord or nobles land out of the, you know what I’m saying? This saying, air quotes be benevolence of their own heart, right? Like, if they let you live on land, you get to lease this land from them, but you cannot own this land. Now, America was founded on this belief in private property, but that’s kind of gone astray because it to some regard, and you see that with civil asset forfeiture, the government’s saying like, no, you can pretend you own your stuff, but really you don’t. We do. Yeah. So the eminent domain is really scary because they find ways to take your physical property or house usually or your land, and they do it through weird ways. So let’s say somebody wants to build a highway, but your house is in the middle of that highway. The home that you own government will often say, all right, we’re gonna take your home and we’re going to give you what we believe is market value for this home. Now, there’s two parts about this that are a little tricky. In the Fifth Amendment, there’s something called the takings clause. And the takings clause says that if you take if the government takes something from a private individual, they must give just compensation. Now, when the government makes up its own rule for what just compensation is, that’s a problem, right? They’re saying, this is how much we’re gonna give you. Now this happens in other ways. I believe environmentalism has also been used to take the land because they’ll say, yeah, you know, I don’t know if the, like the wetland stuff, would really count, but it kind of does where they’ll say, yeah, your house is a protected wetland. And it’s like, if there’s a puddle, I kid you not, if it rains and there’s like a puddle, they’ll be like, Nope, this is a protected body of water. And usually, they don’t take your land. What they do is they’ll find you for that. So it’s a little different, but all this to say that the government decides that it can do what it wants with your property. An eminent domain I think is a real scary one because you lose a lot of what you put, into your home. And if I can add one more thing, I know I’m going on a tangent here. There’s another thing that is really bad called home equity theft. Now, home equity theft is when, let’s say you, well, I’m just gonna give an example of one story. There was a guy named, I think it was Yuri Raphael, and I believe it was in Michigan. He forgot to pay $8 of his property tax. I think the full amount was $8 and 11 cents. That is less than Netflix costs. So he forgot to pay that. The government decided to take his entire home, and he didn’t even know about it. He wasn’t even informed. So they took his entire home from him. So craziness. And he ended up, I think, winning in court. I don’t remember, but the government, that’s again, they take your stuff. So they said, well, hey, you didn’t pay your taxes, we’re gonna take your home. But it gets worse than that. They took his home and they sold it to somebody, a private investor. And the price they were allowed to keep all the money. So if you know the government just compensation, again, if the government, if you owed the government $8, then they should be able to take $8 from you, maybe interest if it earned interest, but instead they took, yeah. You know, I, don’t know, I remember the exact amount, but sometimes it’s hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of your home equity. So really scary, Emma, that the government can just take your stuff and, you know, make excuses for it.
Emma: Oh yeah. It’s super scary. And I mean, we’ve talked about this concept of taxation on here as well, and a lot of people say, and I definitely believe that it is a form of theft because you don’t consent to it, they take it from you. And I would actually argue that it’s robbery because theft is when you just take something of someone’s when they’re kind of looking the other way. Robbery is when it’s at gunpoint or you’re using some sort of force or weapon. Yeah. So I, think taxation is actually robbery because if you don’t pay your taxes, you go to jail and you know, they send you to jail with guns, they come to arrest you. So that’s another thing is it’s, we don’t consent to these things. We don’t give the government permission to take our things in this kind of way, and yet they still do it. So it’s, really unfortunate that we’ve gotten to a point where these things are just sort of part of everyday life. And I think the reason why, once again, this stuff is still in existence and it’s still happening is because a lot of people just don’t know that this happens to people. I think most people, regardless of their political background, if you were to tell them that story about that man in Michigan who lost his house, cuz he didn’t pay $8, 99% of people, I think maybe there would be a few weirdos who you know, think that it’s fair. But most people, I believe would hear that story and think that is horrible. I can’t believe that the government can do that to somebody. So that’s what gives me a little bit of hope is if we can just spread the word that this stuff is happening, there will finally be accountability for the government. But they definitely don’t want us knowing about this stuff. So it kind of happens undercover of darkness sometimes. And, yeah, the more we know, the less power they have to do these things to us. So anything to add, Brittany, before we wrap it up?
Brittany: No, I think that’s good.
Emma: Awesome. All right, well we will talk to you guys all later. Also, quick note, we do have a book that touches on this. It’s one of our teenage books where you can kind of choose your own consequence. It’s called the Tuttle Twins in the Little Pink House. So if this is an, a topic that you’re interested in and you wanna kind of explore these themes and learn more about how this works, it’s a really fun story about this funky pink house and the government and big corporations kind of scheming to get it. So really good option if you’re interested in learning more about that. And I will link to that in the show notes. And we will talk to you guys all again soon.
Brittany: Talk to you soon.