When law enforcement officials seize property gained through criminal activity, those of us on the right side of the law should applaud. When they seize property from individuals who not only haven’t been convicted of a crime but haven’t even been charged with a crime, something is amiss. A recent Supreme Court decision is a first step toward ending this injustice.
When used properly, “civil asset forfeiture,” as it’s called, enables the government to seize assets from criminals and convert them into assets that can benefit the public.
Forfeiture got turbocharged in the 1980s with the escalation of the War on Drugs. It steadily expanded and today produces millions of dollars for most states and more than $4 billion for the federal government, more than quadruple the amount in 2001.
But there’s a growing problem with the practice.