Sign up FAST! Login

John Oliver: Civil forfeiture laws allow cops to steal our ‘stuff’ to buy ‘toys’

Stashed in: Awesome, Po Po!, @iamjohnoliver

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Oliver shared a clip of one man who had $2,400 given to him by his father to start up a job, only to have it confiscated by  Nevada police who suspected him of driving to California from Michigan with the money to buy drugs.

“Wow. There is so much wrong there,” Oliver said. “Including the fact that any policeman who genuinely believes you need to drive from Michigan to California to purchase drugs, needs to be introduced to the concept of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Oliver noted the rising tide of police pulling motorists over and asking if they are carrying large quantities of cash while pointing out that, since 9/11,  authorities have used one program to acquire over $2.5 billion in the course of close to 62,000 cash seizures in cases where people were not charged with a crime.

“You don’t need to be charged with a crime, ” Oliver explained.” Because it’s not you that on trial, it’s your stuff.  That’s why  these cases have historically had eye-catching names, such as, and all of these are real: ‘United States versus eight thousand eight hundred and fifty dollars in United States currency’ and ‘United States versus an article consisting of 50,000 cardboard boxes more or less, each  containing one pair of clacker balls’ and ‘United States versus approximately 64,695 pounds of shark fins.”

This is one area where I had no idea until John Oliver shined the light.

How awful.

I have heard of some automobile seizures, in which police would toss a few marijuana seeds into the back seats of super lux automobiles in order to claim them for their police departments. 

Ugh, that's terrible.

But confiscating money seems even worse. That's downright theft!

One of his best rants ever.

As your reward, here are 500 Reddit comments about it:

My favorite Reddit comment:

I'm an attorney who has handled some forfeiture cases (mostly federal). Here's the deal with civil forfeiture. The government does not automatically get to keep what they seize. You have the right to claim the property, and if you do, the government has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is tied to crime. However, the problem is that it's not worth hiring an attorney to fight for you to get your $1000 back. It's cost-prohibitive. As a result, most people just let the government keep the property. If bigger dollar amounts were in play, it would be worth hiring an attorney.

You May Also Like: