The effectiveness of State legislation to solve problems caused by the State is debatable, but it is nice to see a government official headed in the right direction every now and then. Such is the case with David Butterfield, a lawmaker proposing to end random DUI checkpoints in Utah.
Despite the Fourth Amendment strictly prohibiting warrantless searches and seizures, the Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints are permissible as long as certain requirements are met. Ever chiseling away at civil liberties with the sharp tools of misguided utilitarianism, the court justified such checkpoints on the grounds of their effectiveness.
But what Butterfield has found, and what anyone will find with a simple Google search, is that DUI checkpoints aren’t effective – at least, not at deterring drunk driving. What they are effective at is raising revenue for police departments and the State. It is not surprising, therefore, that Butterfield’s proposal was met with sharp criticism from the law enforcement bloc. State police forces rely on tickets and fines as revenue, and DUI checkpoints have proven to be veritable gold mines for raking in dough for minor offenses that police can’t pull you over for, as well as asset forfeiture.
While Butterfield’s proposal is a step in the right direction, it’s difficult indeed to see the State ever making it to the destination that direction leads to: legalizing drunk driving. As libertarian activist Lew Rockwell explained:
“This is a gross attack on liberty that implies that the government has and should have total control over us, extending even to the testing of intimate biological facts. But somehow we put up with it because we have conceded the first assumption that government ought to punish us for the content of our blood and not just our actions…
“Bank robbers may tend to wear masks, but the crime they commit has nothing to do with the mask. In the same way, drunk drivers cause accidents but so do sober drivers, and many drunk drivers cause no accidents at all. The law should focus on violations of person and property, not scientific oddities like blood content.”
I hope Butterfield fights the good fight and gets his proposal codified, despite the overwhelming intimidation tactics the law enforcement cartel is bound to unload on him. Radical ideas are often met with radical opposition. But then, isn’t that how we know we’re onto something?
Before Brigham City doctor Dewey MacKay had even been criminally charged with illegally prescribing pain killers, federal prosecutors began seizing his assets, including his truck, SUV, and over $1 million of his retirement savings. That is because civil asset forfeiture legislation enables prosecutors and police to seize property without ever charging the owner with a crime. They simply must suspect that the property was used in illegal activity.
Now prosecutors are seeking a hearing with a judge to seek seizure of the doctor’s business property and assets. No one should be surprised by this. The “war on drugs” actually has little to do with drugs and more to do with plunder. It has given legislators and government agents strong incentive to criminalize and ruthlessly prosecute as many drugs and drug-related acts as possible.
In a document prepared by the ironically named U.S. Department of Justice as a guide to police officers, the real motivation behind the drug war is spelled out quite plainly under the heading, “The Need for Forfeiture”:
“For many years, law enforcement agencies around the nation have faced shrinking budgets. Police administrators have been forced to develop creative budgeting strategies, such as securing federal grants and partnering with community foundations. Though it is an enforcement tool, asset forfeiture can assist in the budgeting realm by helping to offset the costs associated with fighting crime. Doing what it takes to undermine the illicit drug trade is expensive and time-consuming. Forfeiture can help agencies target these difficult problems, sometimes without the need to seek additional outside resources to offset their costs.”
As usual, the “justice” imposed upon individuals by the State is focused not on retribution to the victim, but on funding State concerns. Indeed, the State’s actions cannot award damages to the victim when there is no victim. Drug use, production, and exchange by and between consenting adults are not criminal activities precisely because there is no victim. There is no harm in these activities to which consent is not given, and the actual crimes normally associated with these activities (gang violence, theft, etc.) are largely the results of drug prohibition, not drug use.
The State’s function is to benefit itself. This always has been its function and always will be. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest at worst and naive at best, but always counterproductive to the pursuit of mankind’s welfare. The real criminal is the State as it uses force to prevent voluntary relations and transactions, seizes property from non-criminals, and seeks the lengthiest prison time possible as an example to others and as a source of revenue to the private prison companies that are so generous in their political donations.
Voluntaryists assert that the State’s monopoly on crime is illegitimate, that the use of violence against non-violent people is the true crime here. While voluntary transactions between two parties necessarily result in both parties being better off, the State’s system of coercion can only operate at someone else’s expense, and the costs can be dear.
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process by which the state–law enforcement officers and prosecutors–can seize your property and sell it to fund their own agencies, all without having to convict you of a crime. The “war on drugs” has made asset forfeiture a very profitable business for law enforcement agencies, and the recent recession has only increased the incentive to maximize revenues through these means. Read more >>
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