Ending Forfeiture Abuse: How States Can Be Tough on Crime and Respect Property Rights

Civil asset forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to private property rights in our nation today. Law enforcement can take your property without even charging you with a crime. 

According to reports from the Institute for Justice, law enforcement agencies frequently fail to disclose what they seize or how they use the proceeds. Failure to report only makes this already bad problem worse. 

State legislatures must enact comprehensive forfeiture reform to protect private property by (1) requiring that individuals be convicted of a crime before title to their property is transferred to the state, (2) ensuring that forfeiture proceeds do not become a slush fund for law enforcement, and (3) protecting innocent owners by shifting the burden to prosecutors to prove that a third-party did not consent or have actual knowledge about a crime before he loses his property. 


Police and prosecutors should be chasing criminals, not profits, but allowing the law enforcement to keep the proceeds of forfeited property gives them a direct financial incentive to abuse their power. Fair and impartial law enforcement cannot exist as long as policing for profit is allowed.

Going to court to get your property back is no simple task. The state forces you to enter an upside down legal world where you must prove your property is innocent instead of requiring the government to prove you are guilty of a crime. 

The legal process is so rigged that even an innocent owner needs a lawyer and must wait months for a hearing to get back seized property. The laws need to be changed to protect property owners who are wrongly dragged into the forfeiture process through no fault of their own.