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So, I went looking for the decision in DC v Beretta...


... and I stumbled across something quite interesting.  Those of you who have been paying attention, particularly before the War on Terror became the major threat to American freedom and liberty, are familiar with the increasingly confiscatory tactics the police have taken in their war on whatever happens to be convenient.  The idea is simple: the police "catch" an individual but can't find probable cause to charge him with anything.  Nevertheless they somehow know he is guilty, so they charge his possessions with being ill-gotten gains.  It is, apparantly, easier to convict a person's property than the person himself. 

This results in cases like:
United States of America v. MQ Power Whisperwatt 85 KW Disel Generator, Serial No. 7700228 et al

In this case, a charge of "28:1345 Complaint for Forfeiture" was brought against the following defendents:

Defendant MQ Power Whisperwatt 85 KW Disel Generator, Serial No. 7700228

Defendant 1998 Honda Foreman Quadrunner, VIN 478TE2204WA006354

Defendant 2003 Honda Foreman Quadrunner, VIN 478TE260334206419

Defendant $7,040 in US Currency

Defendant Ruger Mini 14 Rifle with Scope

Defendant Beretta 12 Gauge Double Barrel Shotgun Defendant Colt .223 Caliber Rifle with Scope

Defendant Norinco Rifle Mak-90 Sporter

Defendant Browning 30-06 Rifle with Scope

Defendant Norinco SKS Rifle with Scope and Bayonet

Defendant Remington 870 12 Gauge Shotgun

Defendant Ruger l22 Caliber Rifle with Scope

Defendant Winchester 30-30 Rifle with Scope

Defendant .22 Caliber Rifle

Defendant Remington 12 Gauge Shotgun

The property was not represented in court.  Now, before you get the wrong idea, this case was dismissed.  I have no idea why -- I figured maybe even a judge in the 9th Circus might wonder why the property was being charged.  Or perhaps the judge threw out the case because the property was not properly represented in court ("So, .22 Caliber Rifle, do  you have any kind of alibi?  Friends who were with you that night, who knew where you were?"). 

So I clicked through the next few.  USA v. Marlin Rifle has the disposition listed as Judgment on Default, so I figure that particular rifle was found guilty on account of not being able to defend itself, not being an animate object.  A case against $37900 and a 1998 Audi is still pending.  Another case brought against a Beretta A303 Semi seems to have a motion for judgement before trial pending, or at least there was such a motion pending in 2003; it seems to have been dropped in 2004 due to lack of activity.  Interestingly enough, in that case the firearms were represented by a real lawyer.  No word on whether they took the stand or pled the 5th.

This is exactly the sort of absurdity that results from the erosion of our Constitutional rights and protections.  Why is our government so eager for an easy victory in court that it is willing to make itself a laughingstock by charging inanimate property with crimes?  Is it merely greed?  Or something worse?

UPDATE: Oh, and anyone who was wondering why the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was necessary... I was simply searching for cases involving Beretta.  I got maybe 110 results, of which perhaps 20-30 were against humans named Beretta and another 30 or so were against guns made by Beretta.  That's about 50 lawsuits involving just one manufacturer.

This entry was published 2006-05-23 18:56:11.0 by matthew@triggerfinger.org and last updated 2006-05-23 18:56:11.0. [Tweet]

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