Pubdate: Wed, 20 Feb 2013
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2013 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Jack Wickham


Your recent front page article about criminal asset seizures and the 
Diffenderffers was good investigative reporting ("Seizing assets to 
take profits from crime," Feb. 17). To recap, Michael Diffenderffer 
had marijuana plants in his basement. The police discovered them, but 
he turned up dead, so there was nobody to convict. The government 
then moved to confiscate the house from his evidently innocent widow 
in a forfeiture action.

Nowadays, it is apparently routine for the government to take 
property as punishment before, or without, a conviction. In this 
case, the government settled for ("extorted" might be a better word) 
$150,000 from his wife so that she can have her house back.

The question we should all be asking is: Where does the government 
get the right to do anything like this? A basic American tenet is 
that we are guaranteed to be treated as innocent up to the point that 
we are convicted of a crime. If there is no conviction, is this 
action in any way legal?

Our legislators and all the lawyers that are running around loose in 
this country have been asleep at the switch. If the rest of us don't 
complain loud and long, we can expect this unconstitutional practice 
to continue unabated.

Jack Wickham, Glen Arm
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