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Montana Viewpoint: Calling foul on unlawful 'forfeiture'

July 26, 2017View for printing

As a young man, I remember seeing highway signs in the South that said, "Warning, Speed Trap Ahead."

These were not put up by the highway departments. They were paid for by the American Automobile Association. Typically, and quite legally, the speed limit would suddenly change from 60 to 25.

This was announced on a speed limit sign mostly hidden behind a bush, and a motorcycle cop hidden behind a billboard would wait for the next out-of-town driver to shake down. In this way, the local law enforcement department got a little spending money and you got a ticket. But at least you got charged with something.

In more modern times, federal, state and local law enforcement developed a nifty fund-raising technique called "civil forfeiture," whereby they took money--lots of it, sometimes--from your wallet or seized your car home, or other assets based on the assumption that you may have committed a crime--or might be about to.

By: Jim Elliott

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