Why Civil Asset Forfeiture is Legalized Theft

Civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to seize property, money, or assets if police merely believe it is connected to criminal activity. Police do not have to file charges or even establish guilt in these cases before seizing and keeping property and there is no limit to what police can seize. In addition, these seizures often take place in instances where law enforcement have engaged in discriminatory profiling people of color and other minorities (e.g., traffic stops, airport searches, and train searches).

Federal forfeiture law provides law enforcement with a strong monetary interest in asset seizures. Under the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program, state and local law enforcement that turn over seized property to the federal government can pocket up to 80 percent of the forfeiture proceeds. Additionally, federal law does not require the collection or reporting of data on state, local, or federal seizures.

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