John Oliver Explains How the Police Can Legally Take Your Possessions, in His Best Segment Yet

This is basically a system-sanctioned shakedown and it's every bit as maddening as it sounds.
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This is basically a system-sanctioned shakedown and it's every bit as maddening as it sounds.
Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 12.53.27 PM

It's been said before but it bears repeating because it's such a shock to watch John Oliver's Last Week Tonight on HBO each week and behold the kind of work he's doing. While Oliver's team doesn't independently chase down sources nor confront its targets for comment, the detail it puts into its long-form pieces each week is nothing short of extraordinary in the age of the shrinking attention span. In just its first season, Last Week Tonight has become one of the most important news programs on television -- and it's essentially a comedy show.

Last night Oliver and his crew may have done their most revealing and infuriating report yet, dissecting over a period of 15 minutes the little-known law enforcement tool called civil asset forfeiture, which allows the police to seize money and property based on nothing more than the assumption that it's being used for criminal activity. No conviction is required, merely suspicion, and defendants have very little recourse in pursuing grievances and getting their stuff back. It's basically a system-sanctioned shakedown and it's every bit as maddening as it sounds.

Oliver enlists the help of Law & Order veterans Kathryn Erbe, Robert John Burke, John Fiore and Jeff Goldblum -- who steals the show by interrogating a pile of money -- to help him lighten the mood after explaining how law enforcement can clean you out. The result is both blistering and hilarious.