Civil forfeiture has become a significant government intrusion in recent years. While it remains a viable instrument for federal agents enforcing customs laws and fighting international crime, misguided policies and misaligned incentives foster abuses and raise grave constitutional concerns.
Each year, federal and state forfeiture programs allow law enforcement to seize more than $3 billion in cash and property from thousands of people – often without ever charging them with a crime. There are also serious questions as to whether civil courts using lower burdens of proof are the appropriate means to enforce government anti-crime policies.
Civil forfeiture further jeopardizes the relationship between police and their communities when vulnerable residents who cannot afford to challenge small-value seizures are targeted. There are also questionable benefits when financially-stressed departments prioritize revenue-generating forfeitures over arrests, drug interdiction, and crime-fighting.
CEI is addressing these issues through its new Forfeiture Reform Initiative: engaging federal and state policymakers to implement much-needed reforms and educating the public about their constitutional rights to stop improper seizures in the first place.
No person should have to fear for their property while engaged in lawful activities or lose it without ever being convicted of a crime.
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