Forfeiture Endangers American Rights

Forfeiture Publications

Posted 1-14-98
From Police Power To Police State
by Richard Lawrence Miller
(reviewed by Mark Jones)

      Richard Lawrence Miller's book Drug Warriors & Their Prey:  From Police Power To Police State (Praeger Publishers, 1996) is a valuable addition to the arsenal of activists against both the drug war and the civil forfeiture laws that war has spawned.  The book describes the process by which minorities in a society are systematically destroyed, and the parallels between the war on drugs and the holocaust in Nazi Germany.  Nor is this mere hyperbole.

    Miller is also the author of Nazi Justiz:  Law of the Holocaust (Praeger Publishers, 1995), an investigation of Nazi jurisprudence.  He is more than qualified to describe the parallels between the Nazi legal system and the elements of Nazi law
which are being introduced into our legal system under the war on drugs.  Both books have the same structure.  They are divided
into chapters covering the stages of destruction:  identification, ostracism, confiscation, concentration, and annihilation.  Each has
extensive footnotes.  Drug Warriors & Their Prey provides more than 1200 footnotes documenting the legal decisions, legislation, and horror stories he describes.

    I first read Drug Warriors when a friend loaned it to me.  Once I'd finished it, I ordered a copy from a local bookstore.  This
book will go onto my permanent reference shelf.

    Before a group can be targeted for destruction, they must be identified.  The first chapter of Drug Warriors describes the means by which drug users are ferreted out.  Nazis used pseudo-scientific criteria to identify Jews.  The drug warriors rely on "status crime" statutes which use blood and excreta to identify drug users, rather than behavior--in large part because neither physical appearance nor behavior can reliably identify drug users.

     "The law does not care if tests used to detect illicit drug users fail to demonstrate that users are impaired.  The law does not
     care if users behave in ordinary ways.  A statute creating a status crime targets ordinary people.  That is its purpose.  If
     illicit drug users acted in ways that distinguished them from nonusers, a status crime statute would be unnecessary." (p. 9)

This chapter also documents the use of "status immunity" for drug warriors (allowing them to manufacture, deal and use drugs in
pursuit of undercover victories), use of a medical paradigm to justify coercive "treatment" of drug users, and the widespread use of propaganda to justify increasingly draconian attacks on drug users.

    Chapter 2 describes the process of ostracism:

     "Having seen how a group of ordinary people is identified so it can be destroyed, we are ready to consider another element
     of the destruction process:  ostracism.  The hate propaganda we examined in the previous chapter not only serves to identify
     victims.  Its defamations promote public loathing of victims, nurturing an atmosphere where acts of ostracism become
     natural. Ostracism seeks to prevent the targeted group from surviving in normal society.  Ostracism can come from private
     individuals, such as employers who fire competent drug users.  Ostracism can also come from government, through means
     such as laws directing physicians to violate professional confidentiality by reporting patients' illicit drug use to state
     authorities.  Restricting access to employment and health care are just two of many ways to impede survival." (. 35)

This chapter details the many ways in which drug warriors seek to deprive drug users of their legal rights.  The loss by drug users
of rights to otherwise legal behaviors (housing near schools, to fishing or hunting licenses, to drivers' licenses and so forth) are
documented, along with propaganda and legislation aimed at coercing employers and landlords into ostracizing drug users.  The
gravest threat is the erosion of drug users' constitutional rights to free speech, to obtain counsel and to trials, and against
unreasonable search & seizure, excessive fines and self-incrimination--these affect all of us.

    The purpose of all this?

     "There are three ways to survive:  gainful employment, welfare, or crime.  By losing the possibility of employment, drug
     users must resort to welfare or crime.  Yet drug warriors seek even to cut off welfare, as through evictions from public
     housing in Missouri.  Drug warriors want to leave drug users with one option for survival:  crime.  The public will then
     accept merciless attacks on drug users, because there will be a high correlation between drug use and predatory
     criminality.  But the correlation will have nothing to do with pharmaceutical chemistry.  Instead it will be caused by the
     setting--the laws--in which drug use is forced to occur.  In order to encourage destruction of drug users, drug warriors
     encourage an increase in predatory crime." (p. 88)

    The chapter on confiscation is most relevant to F.E.A.R. supporters.  Miller describes the two previous U.S. experiences with
mass confiscation of private property:  the liberation of slaves following the Civil War, and the property left behind when
Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II.  He discusses the techniques of seizure, the original intent of seizure
laws from the earliest days of the republic, and the way in which drug warriors have twisted those laws (and passed new ones) to
evade limits on police power.

    He describes the difference between remedial and punitive seizures, punishment versus revenue, punishment of the innocent,
and the use of civil forfeiture to promote criminal convictions (as by ensuring the defendent cannot afford legal counsel, or by using forfeiture as leverage to force plea bargains).  An important aspect of all this is the corruption of police departments and police
agencies by the "bounty" system that rewards aggressive seizures (justified or not) with a share of the spoils, as well as the  lack of accountability they enjoy.  It is documented in appalling detail by 370 footnotes.

    Chapters 4 and 5, covering concentration and annihilation respectively, are considerably shorter.  The war on drug users has not
progressed--yet--beyond the use of prison to concentrate non-violent drug users, and the transformation of medical care providers
into de facto drug police (through reporting requirements) to dissuade drug users from seeking medical care.  Nonetheless, the
example of the Holocaust is not to be taken lightly.  Not even the most ardent Nazi knew in 1933 that the ultimate result of their
policies would be wholesale murder of innocent Jews.

    In his Coda to the book, Miller writes:

         "...We comfortably tolerate an unspecified but noticeable level of unemployment.  Ditto poverty, automobile accidents,
     insufficient health care, reduced public transit availability...even burglary and car theft....

         "Nonetheless, drug warriors have established and maintained a national consensus that America must become free of
     drug use.  By accepting an impossible goal and by accepting the idea that it must be achieved through police power, citizens
     relinquish more and more rights and revenue to police upon demand by drug war leaders.  Continued acquiescence to these
     escalating demands should create a police state.

         "I believe authoritarians are manufacturing and manipulating public fears about drug use in order to create a police state
     where a much broader agenda of social control can be implemented...After all, what is the vision of a Drug-Free America?
     Millions in prison or slave labor, and only enthusiastic supporters of government policy allowed to hold jobs, attend school,
     have children, drive cars, own property.  This is the combined vision of utopia held forth by Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan,
     George Bush, William Bennett, Daryl Gates, and thousands of other drug warriors." (p. 190-191)

Drug Warriors & Their Prey is a valuable reference work.  My one criticism of the book falls into the "embarassment of riches"
category.  The book is so full of horror stories that finding one again after you've put the book down can be difficult.  The index is
only four pages long, far too short for a book with 1200 citations.  While Miller provides citations demonstrating that several of the
asset forfeiture provisions in current law were termed Crimes Against Humanity at the Nuremburg trials following World War II,
the index makes no direct reference to any of them.

    Nonetheless, I recommend this book to everyone who is concerned about the abuse of civil forfeiture laws by federal, state and
local governments.  Anyone interested in more detailed comparison of drug law to Nazi law would be wise to read his previous
book (Nazi Justiz) as well.