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The myth of limited government

The Constitution is the framework that sets the boundaries for the government. It establishes the institutions of the three branches and sets forth what they must do and what they must not. The Bill of Rights, in particular, limits what the government can do to citizens. That’s what the whole “Congress shall make no law” and “The rights of the people. . . shall not be infringed” talk is about.

Really, this is basic high school government.

Unfortunately, we’re apparently keeping the Constitution around just for show. In my Washington Times Communities Pages column, I look at a case heard at the Supreme Court yesterday concerning assets forfeiture: where the government seizes or freezes your property and assets often before or in absences of criminal convictions or even the charge of a crime. Their argument is that we can’t let bad guys profit from their crimes.

As a reminder, let us review the 4th, 5th, and parts of the 14th amendments:

Amendment 4: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Amendment 5: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or 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.”
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Amendment 14, section 1:  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

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For more on the case before the Supreme Court and the situation with civil forfeitures across the nation, check out Between Errands on The Washington Times Community Pages.

If you really want to dig into this issue, I recommend the report by the Institute for Justice “Policing for Profit.” Just be prepared to get angry.

One response to “The myth of limited government”

  1. […] I’ve written about civil forfeiture before, but basically it’s when the government seizes your property accusing it of being used in a crime, without charging you with a crime and therefore needing to prove your guilt in a court of law. Because you aren’t charged, they don’t have to obey the Constitution or state laws regarding due process. If you want your property back, you can spend money hiring lawyers and prove it’s innocent. Needless to say, this hits (is targeted at?) the less well off hard, because they don’t have the resources to fight. […]

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