Time for Congress to reform civil asset forfeiture after court ruling

Back in 2015, an eye-catching headline appeared in the news. “Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year,” the headline read. Think about that for a moment. That’s millions of dollars in cash, homes, and cars stolen not by burglars or carjackers, but by police departments across the country. What’s worse, most of the property has been seized from people who were not even charged with a crime. You’d think this was an anecdote from a former resident of the Soviet Union, but no, this is happening here in America, the land of the free.

As it currently stands, civil asset forfeiture itself is legal. But in a unanimous ruling in Timbs v. Indiana this week, the Supreme Court incorporated the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment to the states. Forfeitures are now considered the same as fines under the clause. Essentially, this means that forfeitures cannot be disproportionate to the offense.