Thoughts on forfeiture of assets, Gov. DeSantis
Zach Burt's guest viewpoint on June 5 was a welcome reminder about the folly of civil asset forfeiture. It's unfortunate that Senate Bill 197 was not passed, instead of the watered down bill that became Act 1021. The reality is, law enforcement, through civil asset forfeiture, takes more assets than are taken in all the burglaries in the United States in any year. The government is thus a bigger thief than actual thieves. Most of these assets are taken without the supposed suspects being charged with a crime, never mind convicted of one.
True reform will come when assets are forfeited only upon a criminal conviction. Mere allegation is not enough to justify taking people's property. That law enforcement and prosecutors opposed SB 197 is no surprise, since they have a vested interest in the current system, as they receive the proceeds from these actions in many cases. Apparently, this conflict of interest is not a concern for them. Criminals should rightly be deprived of ill-gotten gains, but people who have not committed crimes should not have their property taken on a whim.
Moving from ill gotten to misbegotten, Mike Masterson's admiration for Ron DeSantis (column, May 25) is misbegotten. He makes the point that DeSantis is standing up for the rule of law with a new measure in Florida enhancing penalties for people looting and vandalizing during riots and protests.
This is the same DeSantis who signed into law bills that restricted the way Florida's elections are run, a law that will negatively impact the ability of minorities, the elderly and working people to vote. Of note, the signing of that law was broadcast by only one network, Fox. All the others were not allowed to be present for a public event. This is hardly a model of open government. He signed a law that imposes fines for social media operations that deplatform politicians, though it does not apply to his friends at Disney and Comcast; a law prohibiting any business in Florida from asking customers for proof of covid vaccination, much to the dismay of the cruise industry, which had just received guidance from the CDC that they could take passengers who had been vaccinated. This is the same governor who had Rebekah Jones fired when she wouldn't tweak the covid statistics to make his numbers look better. Then, when she still reported covid stats on her own, he sent a squad of police to her house, whose heavy handed tactics terrorized her family.
The new law Masterson thinks is so wonderful is so broadly written that people who had been present at a protest, but did not engage in criminal activity, could be charged. This is unnecessary. There are already laws in effect that deal with any criminal acts that might take place during a protest. The intent of the law is to intimidate and stifle dissent. Ron DeSantis is a fascist. Mike Masterson would do well to find a new hero.