John Oliver on civil asset forfeiture

A caution before you watch this: If you have some good reason not to get seriously angry right now — perhaps high blood pressure or you need to get to bed soon — don’t watch this, because it will very likely bring you close to explosion. It’s amazing that this happens in the United States, but it does, and the consequences can be even worse than Oliver’s report suggests. (More on that below the video, plus an objection to one thing Oliver brings up.)


I don’t have a reference to this handy since I read about it years ago, but I’m pretty sure I have the gist of the facts correct. A law enforcement agency — a sheriff’s department in California if I recall correctly — received a tip from a paid informant that a farmer was growing marijuana on his land. The cops staged on overnight raid on the farm and farmhouse, during which the farmer was shot and killed.

(Why the raid in the middle of the night? Were they afraid the farmer would otherwise flush his entire crop down a toilet?)

No trace of marijuana was found. I guess the paid informant didn’t have a legitimate tip to sell and he needed some money, so he made one up.

The incident was investigated by a department from another county, which determined the perpetrators of the raid had been motivated by the money they expected to get from seizing the farm and selling it. In fact, one of the people brought along on the raid was a real estate appraiser.

And people say government can’t be efficient.

I also recall a report on 60 Minutes or some similar television news magazine program (again this was years ago) in which they interviewed a prosecutor with a long history of seizing vehicles in which drugs had been found. Then her son was arrested driving her car with drugs in his possession, but her car was not seized. They asked the prosecutor if this didn’t this strike her as unfair. She said she didn’t think so.

I do have a complaint about Oliver’s report: He makes fun of the seizure of shark fins. In fact, there are some things that are in themselves pretty clear evidence of a crime, and shark fins certainly fall into that category. Do a search for it if you’re unclear why.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated, which can take up to a day (rarely even two), so please be patient. I welcome agreement, disagreement, and corrections on anything from substance to spelling. I try to weed out spam and anything defamatory or pointlessly insulting (to anybody), unless of course I think it's really funny.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.