Drug War Victim Christine Shuck on Civil Asset Forfeiture

I recently had the chance to meet Christine Shuck, a woman who was raided by a drug task force in Cass County, Missouri, over the marijuana grow that she and her husband operated. Unusually, Christine documented her family's legal ordeals in a book "The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale". I excerpt this selection from the chapter "The War on Drugs in America":

Make no mistake, the War on Drugs means the opportunity for law enforcement, lawyers, and the industrial prison complex to make bigtime money. It is a siren call, corrupting officials and encouraging the acceptability of what can only be described as legal theft.

First and foremost, there is asset forfeiture. I described this earlier, but I really want to reinforce the lesson that we learned. Essentially, if you are accused of a crime then your assets can be seized and sold, even without any conviction in a court of law. Countless travelers have fallen victim to this. Traveling with cash, anything from a few hundred dollars to thousands is often considered an ‘indicator of criminal behavior’ and cash and vehicles are confiscated without any due process.

In our case, all of the lights, the ionizer that helped cut down the smell of the plants, and anything of any value that was directly related to marijuana production was confiscated and sold – long before our day in court. What is interesting though is the fact that while 13 plants were confiscated, only ten were reported as seized. We had ten almost dead harvested plants and we had three healthy ready-to-be-cloned plants. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what happened to those remaining three.

When you give any individual or group of people the power to confiscate an individual’s assets – cold hard cash, expensive equipment, et cetera – you open the door for graft, corruption, and greed. That’s a fact. We can point to the individuals on the police force, or the judge who accepts bribes, or the county commissioner, or a host of others as being the “bad apples” – or we can recognize that the system of asset forfeiture is endemically flawed.

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