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Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

March 1, 2010
By Marian R. Williams, Ph.D. Jefferson E. Holcomb, Ph.D. Tomislav V. Kovandzic, Ph.D. Scott Bullock

Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today.

for sale sign

Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where property is taken after its owner has been found guilty in a court of law, with civil forfeiture, owners need not be charged with or convicted of a crime to lose homes, cars, cash or other property.

Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but civil forfeiture turns that principle on its head. With civil forfeiture, your property is guilty until you prove it innocent.