‘Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required’
October 27, 2014
Mark Steyn and others have criticized the administrative state (such as the IRS) as acting exempt from our normal constitutional due-process rights (such as “innocent until proven guilty”). Columbia law professor Philip Hamburger recently wrote a whole book on the subject, Is Administrative Law Unlawful?, as he explains in brief in last month’s issue of Hillsdale’s Imprimis.
I guess this is the kind of thing they’re talking about. From the New York Times:
ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa — For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”
The federal government does.
Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.
. . .
“I don’t think they’re really interested in anything,” Mr. Potashnik said of the prosecutors. “They just want the money.”
Update (October 27th, 2014): The daily essay at According to Hoyt today is also about this: “Encroachments of Power”, Cedar Sanderson.
About two hundred years ago, a British jurist named Albert Venn Dicey coined the phrase the Rule of Law. The idea behind the phrase extends back as far as written history, however, with the tablets of Hammurabi that laid out the laws of a long-vanished society, and the even older Code of Ur-Nammu (Kramer).