Civil Asset Forfeiture
The Mark of a Totalitarian State

Civil Asset Forfeiture in the U.S.A.

Along with the ‘War on Drugs’ has arisen a predatory state whose agencies no longer recognize property rights (ironic in a country supposedly based on a respect for the sanctity of private property).  No property owner in the U.S. (or in any other country which models its laws on those of the U.S., such as Australia and New Zealand) can any longer feel secure about continued ownership of their property.  Once the police and other state "authorities" discover that they can take possession of people's property by framing them on a charge of some criminal activity or other which involved the desired property then there's no stopping them from taking whatever they fancy.



Civil Asset Forfeiture in Australia

The government of Australia normally adopts policies of the U.S. after several years have shown those policies to be harmful. So it is with the passage (in September 2002) of federal legislation replicating America's civil asset forfeiture laws. This legislation went into effect on 2003-01-01 and thereafter a person's assets could be seized by the state if "a preponderance of evidence" (in contrast to "beyond a reasonable doubt") suggests that those assets were acquired sometime during the previous six years as a result of criminal activity. No criminal conviction is necessary. There is no trial. From 2003 an Australian's house, car or any other item of property could be seized if a judge could be persuaded by the police to rule that there is evidence (however disputable) that that property was connected to some criminal activity (not necessarily criminal activity by the owner of the property). Of course, most Australians don't even know that this legislation was ever under consideration, still less that it was passed. As in America, most Australians will only hear about this legal theft by their government after it becomes a national scandal (if it ever does), by which time, of course, it will be too late to do anything about it. There is, however, always the option of emigration to a country which respects basic freedoms and property rights.

CNN (2002-09-24): Australia to seize crime assets on suspicion

Australian courts will soon be able to seize the assets of people they reasonably believe to have profited from crime, even if the suspects have not yet been convicted. ... The crime bill ... puts the onus on criminal suspects to prove their assets and property were lawfully derived or face seizure by the authorities.

What probably happened is that some in the Australian government saw how easy it had become for police in the U.S. to sieze whatever property they wanted by framing "suspects" and felt that this would work just as well in Australia. The politicians in power were persuaded (how, one wonders) to pass the necessary legislation.

One of the basic principles of a free society is that a citizen is not treated as guilty of an alleged crime until a court (in serious cases, a trial by jury) has considered the evidence and has established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. With this legislation the Australian government has breached this principle and is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (Article 11)

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. (Article 17)

In Australia such basic human rights are no longer respected by the government. Australia has gone the way of the United States, in a very dark direction. Evil now stalks the land.


Creeping Authoritarianism in Australia