Thursday, July 31, 2014

FAIR Legislation We Should All Support--Rand Paul's Theft Protection Plan

In this world of Obama liberalism we hear the word "fair" so many times that most of us have stopped listening.  The definition of "fair" has come to mean the same to everyone, for everyone, regardless of effort or output.  But liberty-minded Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has introduced a new "FAIR" plan that all of us should support--from all political spectrums and sectors of the nation.  FAIR in this case is an acronym for Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration, but the act is also being called the "theft protection" act.  Paul's legislation is aimed at restoring our constitutional fifth amendment protections against unreasonable confiscation of property without due process.

Most of us are familiar with the fifth amendment and the legal phrase, "pleading the fifth." But the fifth  amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a lot more than just that we can't be forced to testify against ourselves.  The amendment reads as follows:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment of indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sounds pretty clear cut, right?  For over two centuries, this paragraph has protected Americans from forfeiting their property to the government without due process of the law. Increasingly, though, police departments are using federal RICO laws to strip citizens of their private property without any due process and without any clear evidence of wrong doing. Rand Paul has been featuring a few stories of egregious abuses by law enforcement who seized property without cause:
1.  A 64 year old Texas woman with NO criminal record was accused of being a drug dealer after being discovered with cash in her car during a traffic stop by the policeThe money came from the sale of land, but the police confiscated it anyway, and she had to sue in federal court to get it back.

2.  Automobile owners in New York City had their vehicles confiscated after they were discovered giving rides to friends.  They were accused of operating an illegal taxi service.

3. A Nebraska man, Emiliano Gonzalez, who was pulled over for speeding had $124,000 in cash seized from a cooler he was carrying.  Gonzalez said that the money was going to be used to purchase a refrigerated truck for his produce business.  Police did not believe him and accused him of being a drug dealer though they never had evidence to support that claim. Courts initially ruled that the government must return the money, but in 2006 a federal judge ruled that the police could keep the money because of a "preponderance of evidence."  Though the government never proved its case against Gonzalez, the judge basically said they didn't have to--the suspicion of wrongdoing was enough.

Property forfeiture rules are based on the concept that property can be guilty of committing a crime and therefore can be seized.  Law enforcement does not have to prove illegal activity--they merely have to show that they are suspicious that this activity has occurred, and they can basically take what they want and, in most cases, keep it.  Laws that were originally written to rein in organized crime decades ago are now being turn on ordinary citizens to deprive them of their property without so much as a hearing.

For anyone out there who actually thinks this is a good idea, let me remind you that our constitutional protections of life, liberty and property are an anomaly around the world.  America has long been the exception, not the rule.  In countries where law enforcement is permitted this kind of heavy-handed abuse of the populace, crime does not drop.  In fact, it increases because the citizenry is afraid to call the police, fearing that the cops will do worse things to them than the criminals will.

I spent nearly all of my life living on the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas, and I witnessed first hand what it means to live in a society where the police are feared and vilified.  I experienced this up close and personal a few years ago when a real estate agent I knew was being stalked.  Lorena (not her real name) was receiving harassing and threatening phone calls at her home late at night and she became terrified.  I told her that she had to call the police and she became even more terrified.  Lorena's fear had nothing to do with her visa status--she and her husband and all of her adult children were U.S. citizens.  Rather, she feared the police because she was born into a society where calling the police routinely resulted in robbery, sexual assault or some other abuse.  The message on the border was clear--no matter what happens to you NEVER involve the police; they will make whatever problem you have much worse.

What has made the U.S. exceptional has been, in part, a system of clearly written and evenly enforced laws by trained law enforcement who are held accountable for their actions.  No system is perfect, but we prosecute our law enforcement when they are discovered breaking the law.  Citizens are "innocent until proven guilty."  The Constitution protects life, liberty and PROPERTY and those protections provide a framework in which we can prosper as a society.

Unfortunately, the forfeiture laws and practices that are springing up around America threaten to morph us into a society very much like Mexico, where the police are feared, where property is subject to confiscation and where the only rights belong to the government.  That is why Paul's legislation is so important.  We need to close the loopholes and make property forfeiture difficult and expensive for the government.  We need to restore the citizens' trust in government by making government accountable for its actions.  And we need to do it now, before we begin to see generations of Americans grow up who expect government to be corrupt and abusive.  When that happens, we have already lost the battle for individual liberty and constitutional rights.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at


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