The Coastal Post - December, 1998

New Bill Allows Feds To Steal Cash Warns Libertarian Party

by Net

WASHINGTON, DC -- It may soon be a crime to get on a plane or drive down the highway in America with too much money, the Libertarian Party warned last month.

That's because a bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee would allow police to assume that anyone traveling with more than $10,000 in cash in so-called "drug transit areas" is a drug dealer- and confiscate all their money.

"Tourists and business travelers, take note: You may soon have to fear being mugged by your own government," warned Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party national director.

"Your government wants the power to label you a criminal and seize all your money with no proof that you've committed a crime. In other words, your government is about to give police a license to steal."

The bill in question -- the Drug Currency Forfeitures Act-is sponsored by Senators Max Cleland (D-GA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). The senators say their bill is designed to "hit drug dealers where it hurts the most: In the wallet."

The bill allows police to seize cash from any American traveling through a drug transit area -- defined as an airport, highway, or port of entry -- and would force citizens to go to court to try to get the money back.

"Accusations without proof? Punishments without trials? Welcome to America in 1998," said Dasbach. "With this bill, two U.S. Senators want to gut the Constitution -- and strip away fundamental rights like the presumption of innocence and the right to carry money without having to explain your actions to the government."

One of the most repugnant provisions of the bill, Dasbach said, is that people who want their money back will face a "refutable presumption" of guilt. In other words, they most prove they are innocent.

"Senator Cleland complained that courts frequently throw out money-laundering cases for lack of evidence, so his innovative solution was to stop requiring evidence-and simply allow police to steal your money," Dasbach said. "Instead of the government proving that you are guilty, you must prove that you are innocent."

But why would anyone carry around $10,000 in cash, if they're not a drug dealer?

"It's none of the government's business-period," Dasbach said. "The idea that any American should have to explain to the police where their money came from is offensive, and the idea that the police can pocket your money if they don't like your answers is downright criminal."

In previous well-documented cases, he noted, the government has seized money from a business traveler who had planned major cash purchases for his company, and from a foreign-born American who was bringing cash to relatives in another country. In both cases, the courts ruled that the seizure was improper, and the victims got most of their money back from the government.

This bill would reverse those kinds of cases, Dasbach predicted, by essentially creating a new type of crime: Driving While Rich and Flying While Affluent-all in the name of the War on Drugs.

"What the Drug Currency Forfeitures Act really shows is that once again, the War on Drugs has become an all-purpose excuse for a War on Your Rights, such as the right to a fair trial and the right to get on an airplane or drive down the highway without having to explain yourself to a policeman," Dasbach said. "If Americans don't put a stop to this, the politicians will not only steal all our money-they will also steal all our Constitutional rights."

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