Institute for Justice Releases New Report on Civil Asset Forfeiture
The Institute for Justice recently released their new report entitled “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” examining the trend exploding across America. Civil asset forfeiture occurs when a citizen is arrested and their assets are seized by the state. The problems arise when those assets are left undocumented and subsequently sold – without the knowledge of the owner – to help fund state budgets and close financial gaps.
The IJ report also grades each state for their abuse of civil asset forfeiture, with Maine being the lone state to receive an “A-” grade. Further examining the issue, “Policing for Profit” also reports on how governments can evade civil asset laws and why the private property owners often get the short end of the stick. The report directly correlates to cases of eminent domain, an issue the PRA has been tracking as incidents occur across the country.
Civil asset forfeiture has become a growing problem across America as citizens have their property stolen by the state. In many cases, the people from whom the assets are seized are innocent. “Unlike criminal forfeiture,” the IJ explains, “where property is taken away only after its owner has been found guilty in a court of law, with civil forfeiture owners need not be convicted of any crime to lose their homes, land, trucks, boats or cash.” “Policing for Profit” tells the story of many of those cases, including one woman who was stopped on a stretch of Texas highway in Houston carrying a significant sum of cash to complete the purchase of a restaurant. The police seized her money and refused to return it, despite never charging her with an actual crime.
Unfortunately, such incidents are not uncommon in Texas. So much so that on Monday, April 19 the Institute for Justice participated in a court case in Houston defending a man whose truck was seized and never returned, as well as fighting for the private property rights of citizens all over America. In most cases, police cite money-laundering or drug-related charges as the justification for seizure of property, though the defendants are never jailed or even charged with a crime. Asset forfeiture should come after a subject is charged and convicted with a crime – never before. Additionally, states should implement more stringent laws for transparency and accuracy in police reports so that every item taken during a search and seizure is recorded. Private property exists so that the state cannot insert itself into a person’s private affairs without legitimate justification. When private property rights are disrespected, the rights of the state begin to prevail over the rights of the citizen.