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May 102014
 
Will the police protect private property WTSHTF, or will they take it?

Will the police protect private property WTSHTF, or will they take it?

This is the third part of a three-part article series on how everything we’ve saved and stored could be – lawfully – taken from us in an emergency.

If you arrived on this page from a search engine or website link, you might wish to first read the first part of the article, which talks about how our society has evolved to the point where the majority already feel no shame in taking property from people who have it and appropriating it for themselves, and then move on to the second part, pointing out some current legal support for the capricious taking of our personal property, before continuing on with this third part.

As preppers, one of our concerns must be what happens WTSHTF, and 95% or more of the people around us are starving and dying, while we’re ‘sitting pretty’ in our retreat, surrounded by shelter, energy, food, and many of the creature comforts we’ve become used to.

Some preppers anticipate that the unprepped majority of the people in the country will attempt to take their provisions by force.  Others worry that the unprepped majority will attempt to take everything they’ve carefully accumulated and stored through some sort of abusive but semi-legal process.

In many respects, the abusive but semi-legal process is the more threatening.  That’s not to deny the danger of an armed gang of marauders, roaming the region, looting and plundering any which way they choose.  But at least that is something that one can lawfully defend oneself against, and as long as one observes proper protocols, one doesn’t run the risk of breaking any laws in the process.

But what does one do when the local sheriff turns up at your door with a court order compelling you to surrender all your ‘illegally hoarded’ supplies?  You surely can’t shoot the sheriff!

We’ve written before about some of the semi-legal ploys that may be used to try and talk you out of your provisions, and of course, when the judge, jury, and sheriff are starving themselves, your chance of getting a fair hearing is not very great.  Please see our articles ‘The Present Legal Support for Seizing our Food and Other Supplies‘ and ‘Preppers Beware :  Our “Hoarding” Can be Deemed Illegal‘ for more on these issues.

We’ve never suggested that these two articles represent the totality of legal risks we must consider.  And, even if they did, how quickly could a starving local town council, county board of commissioners, or even state/federal legislature pass new laws giving the authorities more ‘perfectly legal’ rights to take more things from people who had prudently prepared?  A day?  A week?

However, it is appropriate to understand the current range of legal ‘threats’ that exist, so today we’re revealing another one.  This is something that – like so many laws – started off with the best of good intentions and then somehow evolved and extended itself to a point now where few people could fairly defend it at all.

You might remember back when laws were being passed that would seize the proceeds of crimes from criminals.  In addition to whatever other punishments a convicted criminal might have imposed on him, he’d also be deprived of his ‘ill gotten gains’.  This made sense, sort of.  What was the point of jailing a drug dealer for a year or so if he got to keep the several million dollars he’d made in profits?  Many people would consider a several million dollar payment more than compensated for a year or two in prison!

This process is called criminal forfeiture.

Civil Forfeiture

We have nothing against criminal forfeiture.  But, we described that process merely as background to what we now are bringing to your attention.  Please read on for the really worrying part of this article.

Something happened, the criminal forfeiture concept evolved and extended way beyond their initial concept and justification.  Nowadays we have laws that allow ‘the authorities’ to take anything – real property, personal property, cash, anything at all – from people when the police or prosecutors suspect the person of wrongdoing.  This is called civil forfeiture.

Whereas in a criminal case, the authorities have to convict someone by going through the due process of the legal system, using a high standard of proof – ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’; in these new scenarios, it seems there is no need for any due process at all, and not even much need for proof.  All that is required is for the police/prosecutor to say ‘we think you’ve done something bad’ and based on that thought, they can then proceed to deprive the person of pretty much whatever they choose.

That sounds impossible to believe, right?  It sounds beyond un-American?  It sounds like only something you’d see in the most corrupt of African republics.

Well, don’t just trust us (and don’t trust anyone else, either).  Do your own research – you could search for civil forfeiture laws on Google, or for civil forfeiture abuse if you preferred (the links take you to the Google searches).  Read any of the articles returned in the search results to get the confirmation of what we’re saying.

Or you could simply read this news item, published yesterday, about a recent case and its implications.

You’ll see in the article that even though some states have legislated against civil forfeiture, there is a loophole whereby federal agencies can still use this concept, and they can (and will) conscript state, county and city authorities to assist them by ‘splitting the winnings’ with the local authorities.

Whatever happened until ‘innocent until proven guilty’?  One could also suggest such actions fly in the face of the Fourth Amendment of our Bill of Rights (unlawful seizures), the Seventh Amendment (a right to jury trials for all matters in controversy exceeding $20) and the Eighth Amendment (prohibiting excessive fines and unusual punishments).

This is appalling law and public policy.  But when you have a situation where bad laws directly benefit the law makers and the law enforcers, then – as the article above points out – it can be very hard to overturn them.

Back to the implications of this to us as preppers.  Do we need to spell it out?  We risk having an officer of some authority confront us, and while struggling to hide the smirk as he says it, tell us that he suspects us of some wrong-doing (and for sure, with so many regulations and requirements these days, we are all guilty of breaking some law or regulation, knowingly or unknowingly) and because of that suspicion, he is taking all our stored food and fuel.  He doesn’t even need a court order.

Police officers we know claim that everyone is always guilty of something, and, if they choose to or need to, they can validly arrest anyone at any time.  They generally consider this a good thing, but should we agree with them?

What Can We Do?

So, if the authorities (meaning way too many people from way too many different government groups) can pretty much take anything they want from us at any time, with little or no due process in the middle, what should we do?

We don’t have a whole heap of suggestions in answer to this problem.  But we can point out that it would be wise to distribute your provisions and supplies over several different locations, so that if you do end up being forced to give up ‘everything you have’, this means that you only have to give up everything you have at your main retreat location, and can then switch to your backup resources.

See also our articles about the essential importance of becoming part of the community so that you can anticipate, influence and moderate such negative actions rather than be blind-sided by them.

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David Spero[suffusion-the-author display='description']

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