Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, the government sharks are back.
Last week the Justice Department announced it was reinstating the government civil asset forfeiture program which allows state and local governments working with the Feds to take the cash and property of suspicious characters.
Hereâ€™s how it works. Say you are buying a car for $10,000 and the seller wants cash. You get stopped for speeding and the police discover that you have $10,000 cash. You become a suspicious character and the police take your $10,000 even though they never charge you with a crime. (This is a true story). The local police department sends $2,000 to the feds and keeps $8,000 to buy shiny new equipment. If you have any money left you can hire an attorney and spend years trying to get your money back by proving you are innocent.
In another case a man sold a home to another man who turned out to be a drug dealer. The government threatened to put the seller in jail if he did not give them the sales proceeds. And, of course, they kept the home because it was owned by the drug dealer.
The Government defends this practice by saying that it helps catch drug traffickers. Yet in a study reported by The Wall Street Journal, 56% of cash seizures were unrelated to any criminal investigation. Since almost $3 billion is taken every year, this study indicates that over $1.6 billion per year is taken from innocent people. The Wall Street Journal calls it what it is: theft.Â
Innocent people can protect themselves to some extent by understanding that cash is like blood in the water to these government sharks. If you have too much with you, they think you are a drug dealer. If you deposit too much in the bank the IRS thinks you are evading taxes. So use bank cashierâ€™s checks or wire transfers for larger transactions and, of course, properly report your income to the IRS. Remember that Jesus said render unto Caesar that which is Caesarâ€™s (Mark 12:17) to protect you from Caesar (Romans 13:5).
You must also use wisdom in selecting those with whom you do business. Remember that some menâ€™s sins trail behind them (1 Timothy 5:24), so you should do a little checking on potential customers or partners. If you become unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), you can suffer the consequences of their sin. On the other hand, if you are humble and not rebellious, and pray, the authorities may not give in to the temptation to take your money (Romans 13:2).
We must not live in fear, but we must follow Solomonâ€™s advice:
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œA prudent man sees danger and takes refuge â€œâ€“ Proverbs 22:3Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â