Imagine you’re in a casino, and you’re having the night of your life.
The sounds of hundreds of slot machines fill the air, punctuated by bursts of joy as people around the room strike gold. Bright lights are flashing, people are celebrating — and suddenly, you’re one of them.
You just made a big bet, and against all odds, you scored $50,000.
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Quickly, you take your winnings and head back home, driving a little fast in your excitement.
Abruptly, police sirens sound behind you. You pull to the side of the road and learn you were driving three miles over the speed limit. The cop who pulled you over doesn’t charge you with a crime or even hand you a speeding ticket — but he finds your winnings and decides to confiscate them because they’re “suspicious.”
And there goes your $50,000 … just like that.
Sounds crazy, right?
Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Tan Nguyen back in 2014.
This insane process is called “civil asset forfeiture,” and it allows the cops to legally seize your property if they suspect it’s been used in illicit activity — even if you haven’t been charged with a crime.
Luckily, Tan was able to fight this abuse of the law and win — but these occurrences still happen across the country far too often, and with much less happy endings.
Each year, law enforcement agencies seize billions of dollars’ worth of cash and property from American citizens. And according to the Institute for Justice, law enforcement agencies in 13 states and the District of Columbia don’t even have to report or record the value of the property they confiscate.
Just one example: The Southern Poverty Law Center found that agencies in nine Alabama counties (roughly 30% of the state’s population) seized over $2 million in 2016. And most of the time, the state was able to keep the cash after obtaining a court order.
To top it off, because of Alabama’s lack of reporting requirements, there’s no way of knowing the actual value of all the other assets seized — including cars, computers, jewelry and more — or even why they were seized.
Clearly, civil asset forfeiture is an outrageous system that’s desperately in need of reform. Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg have recently reintroduced legislation to do that, titled the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, but reform (if it does pass) doesn’t happen overnight.
Knowing this, I strongly advise you to look up your state’s asset forfeiture laws to understand how to best defend yourself should you ever need to. Just know that challenging these cases is costly, and many people rarely get all their money back.
I also suggest reading former Congressman Bob Bauman and Ted Bauman’s book, Forbidden Knowledge, to learn more ways to safeguard your wealth.
You don’t want to wake up one morning to find that your car, your jewelry or even your house is under arrest.
Catch you next week.