The Institute for Justice, which calls itself a “libertarian public interest law firm,” just released a national study of civil asset forfeiture laws in all 50 states.
The report explained:
In one year, the Department of Justice seized $1 billion in property. And get this: Eighty percent of forfeitures at the federal level do not involve prosecution. In other words, the suspect hands over the money and/or property and the government does not press the case and does not have to prove anything.
It is true at the state and county level as well. States are seizing millions of dollars in assets without ever filing a criminal charge.
In forfeiture cases, it is not up to the cops to prove you are guilty. It is up to “suspects” to prove they were doing nothing wrong when they carried thousands of dollars in cash, for example, as they drove down the Interstate. “Innocent until proven guilty” does not apply here. The report pointed out that police often benefit from the seizures:
“Federal forfeiture law makes the problem worse with so-called ‘equitable sharing.’ Under these arrangements, state and local officials can hand over forfeiture prosecutions to the federal government and then receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds — even when state law bans or limits the profit incentive. Equitable sharing payments to states have nearly doubled from 2000 to 2008, from a little more than $200 million to $400 million.
” ‘Our results show that law enforcement is acting in pursuit of profit: Agencies are using federal law as a loophole to circumvent more restrictive and less profitable state laws,’ said Marian Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of government and justice studies at Appalachian State University and a co-author of the report. ‘This finding is consistent with a growing body of scholarly research, news reports and even testimonials from law enforcement officers about civil asset forfeiture practices.’ “
- Look at National Public Radio’s remarkable reporting on the subject of seizure and forfeiture laws, especially in the South. The reporting showed that Justice Department seizures tripled from 2004 to 2008.