It is often stated that in our legal system, the accused is “presumed innocent until proved guilty”. Many assume that wording is used within the 14th amendment to the Constitution. Actually, it is not. That specific wording is in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11, a United Nations document. The wording of the 14th amendment does have the same purpose.
The amendment states: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (italics are mine)
Enter our federal government. Since the 14th amendment applies to states, and does not include the federal government itself, it has taken license to deprive anyone it deems fit, guilty until proven innocent. Just try telling the IRS, “Prove it”. The agent would be astonished you’d have the temerity to think he would have to provide proof of his side of a case. If at some point you were suspected of terrorism, you can be detained indefinitely without due process. The power of the federal government to spy on, and hold without just cause, has been expanded several times, most recently with the Patriot Act. The framers of our Constitution apparently didn’t think they had to restrict the federal government, never intending them to have that kind of power at any time.
If you are accused of drug dealing or other criminal activity, your property or assets can be seized in a legal process called Civil Forfeiture. In this case, to get the seized property back, you must prove it was not involved in the criminal activity, instead of the government having to prove you guilty. Even the states now are allowed to participate in this clear violation of the 14th amendment.
From the very beginning of our country’s founding, the bureaucracy of our federal and state governments have chipped away at our individual rights to due process and our property rights. Every new generation of citizens accepts increasing infringements as normal, without question. Every generation spouts the same, “we are presumed innocent until proved guilty”, as if it is an absolute fact. Because we can go about our daily lives without it affecting us personally, we can ignore the plight of those whose rights are violated. We may even cheer when a “known” drug kingpin has his mansion, bank accounts, and other property seized, not realizing it violates the very constitution our forefathers fought and died for.
We are collectively “asleep at the wheel”, not feeling the erosion of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” happening under our very noses. If not stopped, we will continue, generation after generation, to march toward a totalitarian state. The people of our country have never felt more powerless in the face of a government that rules so much more of our personal lives. We have the very government we ourselves allow.
What can save us from that awful vision of the future? Each of us, of course. We each have as much power as the founders of our country. Governments obey the will of the people. A people united in common purpose can act to do something about it. When we get tired enough of our rights and freedoms being disregarded, I hope we will stand up. This country was founded on people who did exactly that.