Civil asset forfeiture schemes by police departments, highway patrols, and government agencies, continue to separate people from their money. Phil Parhamovich, a traveling musician, found out the hard way when he had his entire life savings stolen from him by the Wyoming Highway Patrol, all $91,800 of it.
Parhamovich had recently signed a contract to purchase a music recording studio in Wisconsin, and was going to use the money to make a down payment on the transaction. And while making a down payment in cash may seem suspicious for some critics, cash is legal tender and allowed to be used for any transaction.
While the traveling musician and artist was going through Wyoming on his way to Wisconsin, he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop by WY Highway Patrol. According to the Institute for Justice (IJ), the law firm now representing Parhamovich, the officers of the law convinced the artist he was committing a crime by traveling with cash. Under pressure, they convinced him to sign a waiver giving Wyoming Highway Patrol his money and waiving his right to contest the seizure.
According to IJ:
The officers pressured Phil into signing a pre-printed waiver that stated he was “giving” the money to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and waiving his right to any court proceedings. After the officers got Phil to sign the waiver, they wrote him a $25 ticket for not wearing a seatbelt and sent him on his way. Other than the traffic citation, Phil was never charged with any crime, let alone convicted of one.
Attempting to fight the theft of his money on his own, Parhamovich wrote the Wyoming Attorney General's office and was asked by the AG to prove the money was his, he'd earned it legally, and had a right to getting his money back. After complying with the request, WY still kept his money. IJ writes:
Instead of returning Phil’s money, Wyoming filed a petition effectively claiming that the property was abandoned and asking a judge to forfeit the cash in its favor. What is worse, the Wyoming DCI did not tell Phil about the proceeding, despite knowing exactly how to reach him and knowing that Phil claimed the money and had asked for notice of any court proceedings.
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One would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would not agree the above scenario is quite literally "highway robbery" by bandits dressed like cops. Parhamovich now has to spend more of his life's earnings to get his life's savings returned to him. The Institute for Justice is representing the now starving artist in an attempt to recover his funds. IJ produced the following video to raise awareness.
While the practice of civil asset forfeiture (CAF) may seem uncommon, it is not at all a rare occurrence. It happens and citizens rarely bat an eye, often blaming themselves for breaking some arbitrary law. Take for instance the State of Arizona's 30-day impound law.
If an officer of the law, who is not a jury nor a judge, determines that a citizen has broken a law (driving under the influence for example), he can order the vehicle to be towed to a tow lot where it must stay for 30 days. While there are a few exceptions to the vehicle being impounded, often times a car will stay the full length of time. If the mandatory daily rate is not paid, along with the hundreds of dollars in fees to the police department, the police will then seize the automobile and require it to be sold at a public auction. The police then get to keep the proceeds.
If, by chance, the citizen is proven innocent in a court of law, they still have to pay the impound fees, and fees to the police department. The whole practice smacks in the face of the long-held legal position that a suspect is "innocent until proven guilty."
An apparent conflict of interest exists when any police department has a monetary motivation to seize property from citizens. Nevertheless, the practice continues, with the corruption of our nation's law enforcement agencies taking place all around us.
Sometimes, the schemes rake in millions of dollars, as TFTP has reported. Other times it's billions of dollars stolen from citizens all in the name of law enforcement. As TFTP has reported, the biggest civil asset forfeiture thieves may by the DEA, who have netted an estimated 3.2 billion dollars over the last decade. That money was not connected to any crimes and represents the majority portion of the 4 billion in total funds the state has seized by civil asset forfeiture schemes in just 10 years.
Sadly, the current administration is hell-bent on increasing this theft as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has admitted publicly that he loves the idea of cops stealing money from innocent people—due process be damned.