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Addicted To the Drug War: The Role of Civil Asset Forfeiture as a Budgetary Necessity in Contemporary Law Enforcement

January 1, 2001
By John L. Worrall

This paper, published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, studies data collected from 1,400 municipal and county law enforcement executives across the nation to determine how civil asset forfeiture revenues relate to police departments’ budgetary

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This paper, published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, studies data collected from 1,400 municipal and county law enforcement executives across the nation to determine how civil asset forfeiture revenues relate to police departments’ budgetary concerns.

As California State University criminal justice professor John L. Worrall writes, “a substantial proportion of law enforcement agencies are dependent on civil asset forfeiture as a

necessary budgetary supplement. In an attempt to explain the 'addiction,' evidence is offered that dependence on civil asset forfeiture is positively associated with revenues generated from past forfeiture activities and inversely related to fiscal expenditures.”

“The second most important finding from the research reported here is that past experiences with civil asset forfeiture and fiscal expenditures were associated with ‘addiction.’ Of course, these two variables do not fully explain dependence on civil asset forfeiture, but it would seem that conflict of interest problems are present in the way civil forfeiture is currently being carried out,” he writes. “Insofar as fiscal expenditures are inversely related to dependence on civil asset forfeiture, it is plausible to conclude that crime control is not the only goal among contemporary law enforcement agencies. Organizational survival and fiscal stability are also important considerations.”