You have seen it in various action movies, cop shows and the like. The hero runs through the streets, chasing a bad guy and, then, in need of a vehicle, commandeers, or takes, one belonging to an ordinary citizen. In the more dramatic scenes this character will often pull out a gun and force a car to stop. The explanation normally goes something similar to, " I need this vehicle in the name of the law."
Wait, you might think. This is America where people have property rights. Can the government take personal items from its citizens who have done no wrong? The answer is yes.
Private Property in the Constitution
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, provides citizens with the right to their property. Government agents cannot confiscate the property of an American without first offering due process of the law. This means that there must be a fair and recognizable procedure completed prior to the taking. Fair means it applies to all. Recognizable implies that the process must be something reasonable people would expect. Agents cannot just create a procedure at the moment.
However, it is More Complicated
Now, it might sound, to the average person, as if the Constitution makes it nearly impossible for the government to take private property. After all, there must be a long procedural hearing held, right? Moreover, this procedure must exist prior to the confiscation. If not, then forget about it. Nothing to worry about.
Well, not so fast. Remember, it will be the same government that took the property that will decide whether the rationale was legitimate.
Furthermore, the Constitution also adds that the government must provide "just compensation" for the taking. Therein lies the rub. Lawmakers can justify the confiscation easily by paying the citizen. There is little the former owner can do once compensation has been completed.
Who decides what defines "just compensation?" Well, the government, of course.
The same people who confiscated the house, car, bank account, etc., get to decide what the victim deserves in return
Get a Lawyer
As shown here, it is imperative that anyone served with confiscation paperwork, or has their property commandeered suddenly, consult with an attorney. Professional legal advice is necessary to prevent government agents from violating the spirit of the Constitution.
So, what about the movie scenarios? Well, assuming the hero returns the car unscathed all is well. An emergency can necessitate such a random taking of property. Otherwise, the Hollywood directors need to add scenes showing the innocent bystander suing the hero for compensation damages to be fully accurate.Share
24 May 2016
Although many people don't think of having legal counsel as improving their life, I have found that it has really helped me to feel empowered as a business owner. Without my lawyer, it was really difficult to figure out what I could say and what I couldn't say, and it really made things hard when I was out and about trying to make business deals. Fortunately, after I found the right lawyer, things became a lot more straightforward. This blog is all about improving your life and streamlining your business with the help of a great lawyer. After all, you never know when you will find yourself in court.