Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Sometimes I go months without posting anything on the website. Then there are others, when I am particularly annoyed, where I can’t wait to post things. I ran across an article in the Atlantic this week, which I believe is very important. It is about a topic which I have been upset about for years, called civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture is a procedure where a police agency, whether it be a Federal, State, or local police agency believes you are guilty of a crime. They seize whatever assets they believe may have been generated from this crime(s). It is meant to be a tool in the War on Drugs, or the War on Organized Crime, or whatever. The individual who had his assets seized must then go to court and prove his innocence to get his property back.

Without question, civil asset forfeiture has resulted in the police seizing large amounts of cash and property from criminals. Also, without question, it has resulted in the police seizing the same from totally innocent persons. I do not know what the “guilty vs. innocent” ratio is, but there is no doubt that innocent people are having their assets seized, without warrant, without proof, and without ever being charged with a crime.

Many times, you do not have to be the one who did the crime, or even to have had knowledge of the crime. In Philadelphia, there was a notorious case where a couple lost their house because their son sold $40 worth of heroin to an undercover police officer without their knowledge.

In the Atlantic article, it describes how Amtrak trains are favorite targets of the police, who board the train questioning “suspicious” passengers, and forcibly searching their luggage. Any cash discovered is confiscated, on the theory that it was probably generated by illegal activity such as drug dealing.

How can this happen in America, you ask? Wake up, man. This is not your father’s America, or the America you watched on Dragnet re-runs. The ends justify the means, and the Constitution is just some old piece of paper no one has ever read, or cares about.

Of course, we in the trucking industry have dealt with this kind of “ends justify the means” mentality for years from the FMCSA. When FMCSA audits you, the audit results are gospel. If you appeal the results of your audit, with respect to your safety rating, you must prove your innocence. FMCSA assumes the audit is correct, and the burden of proof is on YOU, regardless of what you saw on Dragnet re-runs.

Anything on that audit is immediately splashed onto their CSA website for the entire world to see, in the form of their scarlet triangle with the ! in the middle. What if they made a mistake? What if you’re not guilty? Doesn’t matter, it still goes up on the website until you can prove your innocence.

Then don’t forget the entire DataQ, due process sham, which itself deserves a 1,000 word post.

This governmental behavior is outrageous, and is not what our government should be doing. If the government is going to deprive you of your property, or your freedom, the government should always have to prove why that is necessary. When we start allowing the government to take short-cuts, just because it’s more efficient, easy, and convenient, then we are merrily marching on the road to a police state. We may already be there.

As I have stated in previous posts, I am building a Manifesto for a New FMCSA, one where the rights of the regulated are respected, and accident reduction is more important than blind adherence to scores of regulations. I am still working on the name. I intend to circulate my Manifesto to all the Presidential candidates, where I think it may be taken seriously. For example, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Hillary Clinton, etc. Ok, I threw that last one in there as a joke.

My previous Directives were:
1. Fire half of the FMCSA staff.
2. Consider preventability of accidents in the CSA system.

Directive #3 of my Manifesto will be to put the burden of proof in any matter where the FMCSA is taking enforcement action against a person or motor carrier on the FMCSA. No more slipshod, “we all know you’re guilty, so we don’t need to prove it” nonsense. We will spend a few extra dollars so the agency may enforce the regulations fairly, and provide due process to the regulated motor carriers. I will get these extra dollars from the money we saved by firing half of the FMCSA staff.

One thought on “Guilty Until Proven Innocent

  • November 12, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Well said, and well written, the FMCSA is very much a rogue government agency with “0” oversight and no concern for small businesses in trucking and bus industries. Many have been shut down and put out of business and it won’t stop until a class action is filed for the billions lost collectively by hundreds of small family businesses because of FMCSA and their flawed safety software/website.

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