The IRS used “civil forfeiture,” the power to seize property suspected of being produced by, or involved with, crime. The IRS could have dispelled its suspicions of Terry and Sandy, if it actually had any, by simply asking them about the reasons — prudence, and the insurance limit — for their banking practices. It had, however, a reason not to ask obvious questions before proceeding.

The civil forfeiture law — if something so devoid of due process can be dignified as law — is an incentive for perverse behavior: Predatory government agencies get to pocket the proceeds from property they seize from Americans without even charging them with, let alone convicting them of, crimes. Criminals are treated better than this because they lose the fruits of their criminality only after being convicted.

Sandy remembers her father exclaiming, “Aren’t we in the United States? We did nothing wrong.” They did something right in discovering the Institute for Justice’s activities against civil forfeiture abuse. IJ, a libertarian defender of property rights and other American premises, says that what was done to Terry is done routinely across the nation — indeed, it was done almost simultaneously to the owner of a gas station near Schott’s Supermarket who deposited his cash receipts whenever he could get to the bank, typically every few days.