How can the government lawfully seize property as a forfeiture?
It has been called unconstitutional. In my opinion it is, but the fact is that there is another reason it is illegal.
Every forfeiture case challenges the right of a sovereign to somehow "give up" their property as a result of law breaking as an automatic punishment
for crimes of certain natures, without proof or trial in a court of law.
For example, many states have DUI/DWI laws which include forfeiture laws that make it mandatory after a certain number of convictions/infractions that
a violator give up their automobile. Similar laws apply to drug offenses.
The reason the government can get away with this without too much hassle is because when a forfeiture is filed, the defendant is listed as the
Here is a case in point from my local legal journal, Daily Court Reporter:
Seized Property Notice
PUBLIC NOTICE A civil complaint, United States v. United States Currency $2,936.00, Case No. 3:07CV125, seeking forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C
§881(a)(6) of the Defendant Currency was filed on April 2, 2007, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western
Division at Dayton, Ohio. The Defendant currency to be effected is Two Thousand Nine Hundred Thirty-Six Dollars.
The bolding is mine. This is not saying the defendant's currency is $2936. It is saying the defendant is the currency. This same wording is
applied to boats, cars, guns, and houses. The defendants in these cases are the forfeited property, which is why they are always transferred from the
rightful owner to the government.
While John Doe is in jail for charges, his property is being seized under legal statutes that give local police the right to take it. The prosecutor
files a forfeiture case listing the property as the defendant and no one
comes to represent the said defendant, because it is not a citizen,
human, animal or anything with any rights.
The only person that could represent the defendant is a lawyer, which is pretty silly since $2936 cannot hire anyone since it isn't actually a
This is why it is unlawful. Objects are being tried in a court.