Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Readers Respond

News Opinion Readers Respond

Forfeiture case is chilling example

Your recent front page article about criminal asset seizures and the Diffenderffers was good investigative reporting ("Seizing assets to take profits from crime," Feb. 17). To recap, Michael Diffenderffer had marijuana plants in his basement. The police discovered them, but he turned up dead, so there was nobody to convict. The government then moved to confiscate the house from his evidently innocent widow in a forfeiture action.

Nowadays, it is apparently routine for the government to take property as punishment before, or without, a conviction. In this case, the government settled for ("extorted" might be a better word) $150,000 from his wife so that she can have her house back.

The question we should all be asking is: Where does the government get the right to do anything like this? A basic American tenet is that we are guaranteed to be treated as innocent up to the point that we are convicted of a crime. If there is no conviction, is this action in any way legal?

Deep down inside, every thinking American knows that these forfeiture actions are a violation of our Constitution, yet nobody says anything. You can bet that when the forfeitures were first proposed, the progenitors thought, "This will never stand up in court, but let's try it anyway." It turns out they got away with it! Our citizens' lack of concern has allowed this basic abridgment of our rights to become a $4.7 billion industry.

The justification that the money is "an absolutely vital" and a "necessary" part of police department budgets is ludicrous. We cannot be financing government at the expense of basic rights. While it may at first seem comforting to hear that the money is "completely reinvested back into the community," that is just saying that the end justifies the means.

Our legislators and all the lawyers that are running around loose in this country have been asleep at the switch. If the rest of us don't complain loud and long, we can expect this unconstitutional practice to continue unabated and we can also expect a lot more sacrifice of our rights and well-being.

Jack Wickham, Glen Arm

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    • Rosenstein: Feds don't confiscate property from the innocent

      Rosenstein: Feds don't confiscate property from the innocent

      If the woman described in your asset forfeiture article did not know about the illegal drug business in her basement, prosecutors could not forfeit her house ("Seizing assets to take profits from crime," Feb. 17). The law is clear: "An innocent owner's interest in property shall not be forfeited...

    • Police seek missing Baldwin man

      Police seek missing Baldwin man

      Maryland State Police are asking for help from the public in their continuing search for a Baltimore County man who has been missing from his home since last week and who often visits parks in Harford and Baltimore counties.

    • Maryland police seek federal help to take ill-gotten gains

      Maryland police seek federal help to take ill-gotten gains

      Critics say asset forfeiture program can hurt innocent people

    • Jurors will be 'persecuted'

      Jurors will be 'persecuted'

      There is one compelling reason for a change of venue in the Freddie Gray prosecution that was overlooked in your editorial ("The right venue," June 1). I feel that the jurors in this trial will be persecuted for their decision from both sides.

    • Look out for fake farmers at the market

      Look out for fake farmers at the market

      It's that wonderful time of year in Maryland when fresh vegetables and fruit from all over our state and region are being grown and harvested by farmers and sold to you at your local farmer's market ("Seasonal farmers' markets return to Druid Hill Park, Timonium and Govanstowne," May 29). The difference...

    • Community policing works

      Community policing works

      I am a recently retired police sergeant with over 35 years of experience, most of which has been dedicated to community policing. For the last 10 years, I have been responsible for the development of community engagement in the second largest city in Ireland with a population of approximately 330,000...

    • A knee-jerk response to the riot

      A knee-jerk response to the riot

      I had to laugh when I read Mark Brown's letter about how he not only canceled his cruise out of Baltimore but lost money in doing so ("Take a cruise out of Baltimore? No way." May 29).

    • The offal truth

      The offal truth

      On Friday afternoon, my neighbor reported a dead deer in front of his house to Baltimore County animal control. On Saturday night, the deer having not been picked up, I contacted them again. By Monday morning, the deer, being completely disgusting and mostly eaten by flies, vultures and foxes,...