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AOC's newest tirade against law enforcement has a valid point

Far-left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Cortez is correct on one point. That's right, you read it accurately.

The New York lawmaker made emotional statements against "civil asset forfeiture" during a House hearing on Wednesday. This refers to a variety of federal and local law enforcement methods in which ordinary persons' assets, such as cash, automobiles, or residences, are seized on the basis of a mere suspicion that they are linked to criminal activity. Frequently, this occurs without any sort of due process.

“This is an issue that so many people in this country cannot believe is real,” Ocasio-Cortez said . “Civil forfeiture means that the government, law enforcement, etc., is allowed to take away your property — often your car or even your home — without an arrest, without criminal charges, and without ever going to court. And then the police can sell your property and use the proceeds as revenue.”

Ocasio-Cortez has discovered a significant issue. According to the Institute for Justice, the government has taken nearly $68.8 billion in property through this unjust procedure over the previous 20 years. As shown in the graph below, the federal government stole more property than robbers in 2019!

And don't be fooled into thinking that the majority of this land has been taken from convicted criminals or recognized drug cartel leaders. As the congresswoman points out, it's frequently seized without charges or a trial, and the majority of it comes from minor offenders. Property seized is often not owned by the individual accused of committing the crime, but by someone linked with the suspect, such as the suspect's mother.

Here are some examples of everyday victims of civil asset forfeiture, as I reported for the Dispatch in 2020:

1. [Isiah] Kinloch fought off a burglar who tried to break into his apartment. When he called the police, officers found a small amount of marijuana in the apartment and, without any evidence of a connection, seized $1,800 in cash they found in the home. Drug charges were filed against Kinloch but later dropped, and he was never convicted of any crime. Police kept the cash.

2. A taco truck driver had $10,000 seized by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department even though he was never arrested or charged with a crime. He was never able to recover the funds.

These are the kinds of victims Ocasio-Cortez was talking about. The congresswoman went on to say that under this forfeiture system, “it’s disproportionately poor people, low-income people, and people of color who are having their property seized.”

While the real issue is the inherent unfairness of this practice for anyone, Ocasio-Cortez still may be right about the existence of disparities. In South Carolina, for example, the Greenville News reports : “Seven out of 10 people who have property taken are black, and 65% of all money police seize is from black males.” On the national level, the racial diversity of an area positively correlates with the amount of property taken by law enforcement through forfeiture. (This doesn’t alone prove race is the cause of that increase.)

Republicans who believe in property rights and due process should work with Ocasio-Cortez on this subject if she is willing. Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, both Republicans, have filed legislation to prevent this detrimental behavior. More members of both parties' legislatures should join these bipartisan efforts.

AOC is correct on this one, as unusual as it is. Our civil asset forfeiture system is inequitable, un-American, and in desperate need of change.

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