October 16, 2013
Terry Dehko, a grocery store owner and immigrant from Iraq, came to the U.S. to avoid religious persecution and make a better life for himself.
During an investigation, the IRS seized $35,000 from his small business, even though he had been convicted of no crime. And though he was cleared in an audit, the cash still hasn’t been returned. Dehko’s business is now in jeopardy.
How could something like this happen to an innocent American? The Heritage Foundation’s Andrew Kloster explains:
Each of the 50 states and the federal government has laws on the books allowing the government to seize property allegedly related to a crime. Sometimes—as in the case of a bank account being frozen to stop terrorist activity or a drug kingpin—the forfeiture makes sense.
But for many others like Dehko, seizure—known as “civil asset forfeiture”—makes no sense.
Civil asset forfeiture is not a new trend. The government can take ownership of your property during investigations, even if you have done nothing wrong. What is new, and increasingly worrisome, Kloster says, is that forfeiture has created perverse incentives that encourage abuse.
Legislative reform is a must, Kloster argues. Until then, unaware and innocent citizens will continue to suffer the abuses of civil forfeiture.
Do you think the government should be able to seize the property of citizens convicted of no crime?