The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Freezing and Seizing Bank Accounts To Stop Protests And End Bail Funds & Protests

RICO, as you may know, is a law passed in 1970, meant to be used against the Mafia. It allows the government to seize money before a guilty verdict if there is a “pattern” of racketeering (defined very widely).

Of course, once you seize someone’s money, they generally can’t hire a defense lawyer, so they tend to have to plead. I respect public defenders greatly, but if you’re in real trouble using one is a crapshoot at best and even the best ones can’t put in the time and work a private defense lawyer can.

Back in 2008 I suggested using RICO against the banksters: there was a pattern of fraud. I did this because I hated the banksters and I hate RICO, and the best way to get rid of bad law is to use it against important people. (Same reason I wanted the banksters thrown into nasty prisons.)

Anyway, RICO is just one way to do what is becoming more and more common: seizing or freezing the money of those the government of the day dislikes, so they can’t oppose the government. Although I disagreed with the Canadian Truck protesters, freezing their without first convicting them of a crime was a tyrannical act. This strategy has been used against unions and protesters, and is why, as far back as 20 years ago, I was arguing that unions needed to find an organizing model which didn’t require a freezable or seizable bank account.

Domestic terrorism laws are also being used for this, and again, many people warned they would be. You think you’re creating a law to go after the Mafia or Nazis, but such laws are always abused. The rule of law is not “what would good people do with this law” but “what would bad people do with this law” because that’s always where it ends up. (And prosecutors in America are almost always bad people, though that’s another article.)

Yesterday we had what is (so far not a RICO case, but it looks like it might wind up being) this used in Atlanta to go after a bail fund:


Bail itself is an abomination: a way of throwing poor people in prison while rich people walk free (unless their money has been frozen.) It’s vastly unjust and clear class warfare of the most common kind: the rich and powerful versus the poor and weak.

This sort of stuff is also why any movement away from paper cash towards all electronic systems must be resisted vigorously. The more you have no way to keep money out of the system, the more the system can be used to crush you. Any all-electronic money system will eventually be abused by those in power, even the “mostly electronic” systems we have are now regularly abused. (Regular readers will notice this is related to the recent article on how dominant systems want people out.)

But the basic principle is simple, no law should be legal if it inflicts punishment before conviction. The only (small) carve-outs must be for people who are a genuine imminent threat and even such cases must be rare.

Of course, to do this,  you need fast trials. You can’t have a system where it takes two years or more for a person to get their time in front of a judge and jury. The simple fixes for this is that if the government doesn’t give you a trial in certain amount of time, six months perhaps being a good upper bound, you get off. It should probably be less than six months, 3 months for complicated cases and 1 month for simple cases seems far more reasonable.

But, some may argue, “if we did that most people would go free.”

Well, yeah. Because the US justice system (and the UK one) are criminalizing way too much stuff. If your crime rate is too high for your justice system to keep up with something is wrong with your laws and your society. Probably a lot of somethings.

In the meantime, if you’re going to oppose the government or important corporations, whether from right or left, remember that, increasingly, the first thing they will do is go after your money. If they can’t nail you with a “crime” yet, this may just be credit card companies and/or other payment processors suddenly deciding they don’t want you as a customer as happened to Wikileaks, MintPress and many others, but piss off the wrong people and they’ll find someway of smashing you, using laws that should never have been on the books, or just using administrative sanctions and daring you to do anything about it when you’re suddenly broke and worried about food and having a roof over your head.

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Bruno Macaes On Putin And The World Order


Open Thread


  1. mago

    In the 80’s RICO was routinely abused to go after big time drug dealers, like pot purveyors who imported by the ton.
    Now cannabis is largely legal.
    Laws and law enforcement are criminal.
    Hypocrisy abounds.
    Examples are legion.
    There’s no end to the madness. . .

  2. JBird4049

    About cash, in the United States the police at all levels, local, state, and federal routinely seize people’s cash using civil asset forfeitures. No evidence is needed except for the officer saying that they believe with their experience that the money is likely from illegal activities. Sometimes, the money is taken directly from the wallet. No charges needs to be filed and often isn’t, but it up to the victims to prove that their money is legal.

    Since it is not a criminal case, the victims have to pay for legal fees even if they win, so they still lose. And since the money is often taken from travelers, they also have to decide whether traveling back is also worth it. According to the Fed 55 million Americans either don’t have a bank account or use check cashiers and pawnshops for most of their needs.

    Of course, it is usually the poor although there are people like me that might have hundreds of dollars in cash even if they do use credit cards. One can’t always depend that in Nowheresville or some small business will take cash or that their internet connections will be up. I could easily be stopped and lose my money if I am from out of state.

  3. Feral Finster

    Remember kids, authoritarianism is something that ever always only happens in countries that our government doesn’t like!

  4. different clue

    I heard somewhere that the amount of actual money taken by all levels together of law enforcement in Civil Forfeiture is a larger actual amount than the actual amount of money stolen by legally-defined criminals in all robberies, muggings, stickups, etc.

    The only way to stop that would be the mass and total repeal of Civil Forfeiture laws. Then the various police agencies would have to content themselves with their various traffic fine rackets, other fine rackets, etc. Possible in theory, but how possible in practice? ( It occurs to me that I need to clarify and precisionise my understanding of ” democracy in America? ” There is free and abundant democracy for the Right, the trappings of democracy for the center, and zero democracy ( with rare local exceptions) for the Left. Sorry about that . . . for those on the Left.

    So as long as the Civil Forfeiture rackets remain legal and lawful, those wishing to avoid cop strongarm robberies or cop shakedowns are on their own. Perhaps keep some sacrificial decoy money where a cop can find it with a moderate-effort search and keep other money so well hidden that the satisfied cop has run out of energy to keep looking. Also, perhaps the millions of travelers who travel with cash can set up cultural methods by which they can advise eachother of Forfeiture traps to avoid. Perhaps the driving traveler can take obscure back roads around a favorite cop Civil Extortion point.

    Now . . . . I would NEHHHver EHHHver suggest something illegal like soaking down some money with poison ivy oil for the cops to handle along with the money. And I would absoLUTEly posiTIVEly Not not NOT recommend treating that decoy money with a mix of dimethyl sulfoxide and ricin, or abrin, or rattlesnake venom, or any such thing. So don’t EVen THINK about it. Don’t EVen FANtasize about it.

    Cops at Civil Extortion checkpoints also like to steal cars, boats and other things of value. So the driver should be driving the crappiest cruddiest low-valuest car conceivable to self deter-itself from being attractive enough to “civil forfeiturize”.

    Back to the suppression of movements by seizing and freezing their money, if a movement has enough supporters to where they can collectively raise a lot of money for this or that, perhaps they could evolve an underground AmeriCanadian version of Hawala/ Hawaladar.

  5. mago

    Um, dc, if you were driving the crappiest car around, you would be pulled over for a broken taillight and shot for driving with the wrong skin color, so probably not a successful strategy.

  6. JBird4049

    different clue: the Washington Post had an article about the yearly take by police was greater than burglaries and robberies each year IIRC fifteen years ago.

    mago: yes, the car can’t be too ratty as being beige is only protective of and not an immunity from lead poisoning. Get poor enough and you become one of “those” people, no matter what. The United States has always been a class society based on wealth.

  7. different clue

    @ mago and JBird,

    The answer then is to have a car at just the optimum low-value appearance level to avoid triggering cop greed and avarice at one end without also triggering the “poor lower-class victim–fresh meat” reflex at the other end.

    Just what level of visible drabitude is that? I don’t know. People may start experimenting. Perhaps data exist or can be extracted from various raw numbers as to which kinds of cars seem to be less involved in stops then their percentage of cars on the road would indicate if stopping were merely random.

    As to driving with the wrong color skin, there are also places where drivers are profiled and selectively stopped for driving with the wrong color neck.

  8. Seattle Resident

    Today, we see persecution of people who raise bail money for cop city protestors. Yet, tomorrow, I fear, in the near future, we will see persecution of those who raise bail money for pro choice abortion protestors and abortion providers, in the red states. If republicans get control of all three branches in 2024, that will eventually go nationwide and include persecution of people who contribute to pro choice causes and organizations, i.e., planned parenthood, which might end up getting outlawed anyway, depending on the level of republican fascist that might come to power.

  9. StewartM


    About cash, in the United States the police at all levels, local, state, and federal routinely seize people’s cash using civil asset forfeitures. No evidence is needed except for the officer saying that they believe with their experience that the money is likely from illegal activities. Sometimes, the money is taken directly from the wallet. No charges needs to be filed and often isn’t, but it up to the victims to prove that their money is legal.

    For people traveling overseas, it can be worse. There is a requirement that one must fill out paperwork for carrying $10,000 or more in either cash or other ‘financial equivalent’, and trying to carry more than that can result in seizure or confiscation. However, there have been cases where people carrying FAR less than that have had their cash seized at airports–I recall a case where a woman carrying $4000 had her money seized. There, the charge becomes ‘structuring’ (i.e., carrying less than the $10,000 requirement just to avoid having the fill out the forms–and amazingly, the courts have backed Customs up on this just like they allow Customs to seize and search the laptops and phones of US citizens returning to the country.

    The $10,000 reporting requirement dates back to 1970, I believe. If it was simply updated with inflation, that limit would be over $50,000 and would then hit few people. Moreover, the ‘structuring’ interpretation needs to be junked, and whatever the limit is, if someone carried $1 less they should be completely safe. But no…

    PS. I may have mentioned this all in a comment years ago; pardon me if I’m repeating myself.

  10. Purple Library Guy

    On that middle ground to not be noticed by cops, probably can’t go wrong with a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. Going forward, maybe a Leaf.

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