Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jun 2009
Source: Nanaimo Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Nanaimo Daily News
Author: William Perry


With the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously concluding that a 
federal law was wrong to order the forfeiture of Judy Ann Craig's 
home, the way is clear for others to challenge the seizure of assets, 
such as the Hells Angels Nanaimo clubhouse.

This is the beginning of the end of this unfair law. Civil forfeiture 
laws, in my opinion, create a "reverse-onus" requiring defendants to 
prove they did not gain the asset from unlawful activity. 
Examinations for discovery are conducted and cases are decided on the 
civil standard of proof -- the balance of probabilities -- rather 
than the higher criminal standard, beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other jurisdictions that have introduced civil forfeiture 
legislation, such as Italy, South Africa, Ireland, the United 
Kingdom, Fiji, the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, 
Saskatchewan, individual states within Australia, and Antigua, 
statistics indicate that asset forfeiture has failed to prevent 
methamphetamine drug crime.

In those jurisdictions, there are hundreds of documented cases of 
innocent citizens wrongfully deprived of their homes, businesses and 
livelihoods. For example, 80% of property forfeited in the U.S. was 
seized from owners who were never even charged with a crime.

This double-edged sword has created opportunity for agencies to 
abandon investigations, and creates a conflict of interest between 
effective crime control, the courts, and creative fiscal management 
that will persist so long as law enforcement agencies remain 
dependent on civil asset forfeiture.

It is like ticketing the motor vehicle rather than the driver who was 
behind the wheel. In the case of photo radar, a ticket would be sent 
to the owner of the vehicle, which may not be the driver.

William Perry

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