Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Civil Asset Forfeiture

"Nice house on government pay."
--Mace Ryan (Rapid Fire)

Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property believed to be involved in a government crime. For example, people thought to be transporting drugs can have their vehicles confiscated by the police.

The government can use civil asset forfeiture to take property from owners that was used in criminal activity unbeknownst the the owner. Real estate owners (e.g., homeowners, apartment building owners) can lose their property because guests or renters were dealing drugs behind the owners' backs.

The big thing is this: Government can keep the property that it confiscates even if it never convicts, or charges, the owners.

This opens the door for civil asset forfeiture to be a multi-billion dollar money maker for government at all levels. Studies, for instance, indicate that most states allow police and prosecutors to keep at least half the loot that they confiscate. The IRS can also use civil asset forfeiture to increase tax collections.

As Ron Paul observes, civil asset forfeiture is a euphemism for civil asset theft. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the Department of Justice to increase use of civil asset forfeiture. In doing so, he, like his predecessors, is escalating use of a clearly unconstitutional policy.

Twenty four states have now passed legislation limiting its use. Let's hope that trend continues. More state-level push back might impair federal level looting as well.

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