Institute for Justice Releases New Report on Civil Asset Forfeiture
Friday, April 23, 2010 12:35 pm | By Caitlin Blaney

The Institute for Justice recently released their new report entitled “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” examining the trend exploding across America. Civil asset forfeiture occurs when a citizen is arrested and their assets are seized by the state. The problems arise when those assets are left undocumented and subsequently sold – without the knowledge of the owner – to help fund state budgets and close financial gaps.

The IJ report also grades each state for their abuse of civil asset forfeiture, with Maine being the lone state to receive an “A-” grade. Further examining the issue, “Policing for Profit” also reports on how governments can evade civil asset laws and why the private property owners often get the short end of the stick. The report directly correlates to cases of eminent domain, an issue the PRA has been tracking as incidents occur across the country.

Civil asset forfeiture has become a growing problem across America as citizens have their property stolen by the state. In many cases, the people from whom the assets are seized are innocent. “Unlike criminal forfeiture,” the IJ explains, “where property is taken away only after its owner has been found guilty in a court of law, with civil forfeiture owners need not be convicted of any crime to lose their homes, land, trucks, boats or cash.” “Policing for Profit” tells the story of many of those cases, including one woman who was stopped on a stretch of Texas highway in Houston carrying a significant sum of cash to complete the purchase of a restaurant. The police seized her money and refused to return it, despite never charging her with an actual crime.

Unfortunately, such incidents are not uncommon in Texas. So much so that on Monday, April 19 the Institute for Justice participated in a court case in Houston defending a man whose truck was seized and never returned, as well as fighting for the private property rights of citizens all over America. In most cases, police cite money-laundering or drug-related charges as the justification for seizure of property, though the defendants are never jailed or even charged with a crime. Asset forfeiture should come after a subject is charged and convicted with a crime – never before. Additionally, states should implement more stringent laws for transparency and accuracy in police reports so that every item taken during a search and seizure is recorded. Private property exists so that the state cannot insert itself into a person’s private affairs without legitimate justification. When private property rights are disrespected, the rights of the state begin to prevail over the rights of the citizen.

Click here to view the entire “Policing for Profit” report from the Institute for Justice.

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Rep. Oberstar Announces Massive Government Expansion
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 11:00 am | By Caitlin Blaney

Today, April 21, Representative James Oberstar (D – MN), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced “America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act”. While the Rep. Oberstar heralds the Act as a successful measure to protect America’s waters, in reality the legislation has little to do with clean water. The bill proposes striking the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act of 1972, rendering every body of water in the United States under the jurisdiction of the federal government. This is an unprecedented expansion of government regulatory measures, and will ultimately infringe on the private property rights of American citizens.

By modifying a single word from the original text, the new version of the Clean Water Act will bring everything from lakes to ponds to puddles under the authority of the federal government. This would impact the development of land, as developers will have to wait even longer to obtain building permits from bureaucrats in Washington. Farmers and ranchers are also threatened by the new legislation, as it could have an effect on their methods of tending crops and livestock.

In reality, the proposed bill from Rep. Oberstar does little to actually protect America’s waters and more to simply impose big government where it does not belong.

Click Here to see a pdf of the letter the Property Rights Alliance is sending to all members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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Haul Out the Streamers and Blow Up the Balloons - This Week We Celebrate the Statute of Anne!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 4:47 pm | By Caitlin Blaney

It’s not exactly the most notable of documents, but for every inventor, musician, cinematographer, and scientist, the Statute of Anne is sure cause for commemoration. Named for Queen Anne, in 1710, the British Parliament enacted this legislation which was the predecessor for modern copyright law. 

The long title of the Act was “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”. As the name suggests, the fundamental intent of the law was to encourage learned men to write and print literature, and the originality of the authors would be protected. Three hundred years later, the Statute of Anne has morphed into the copyright and IP laws we have today.
In Wednesday’s The Hill newspaper, Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT) wrote an editorial extolling the benefits of strong copyright laws, saying “copyright laws offer creators incentive to produce new and unique works.  These may come in various forms, including movies, music, and books, all of which are important components of American culture. These works create jobs, from their production and manufacture to the advertising and sales that support them.”
The Senator is absolutely right. Strong copyright laws which protect intellectual property are an economic boost and inspire greater innovation. Think about it – if an author could have her work stolen and marketed by someone else with no penalty, what is her incentive to create more literary works? Such creative innovation is being stifled by the rampant piracy and copyright infringement which takes place via the internet. 
Also, this week the Government Accountability Office released a report explaining how counterfeiting and piracy has detrimental effects on the economy, though noting these effects are extremely difficult to calculate. Check out the Copyright Alliance blog for an excellent run down of the positive, as well as concerning aspects of the report.


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