Civil asset forfeiture is one of those insults to liberty that never seems to go away.
Under asset forfeiture laws, police are able to confiscate cash, cars and other assets from citizens simply on the basis of suspicion that they are involved in illegal activity.
It’s almost unbelievable. Legal protections for criminal charges are set aside. Often, no charges are ever filed to justify the government seizing private property.
Even worse, police departments seizing the assets are allowed to keep them for their own use, creating an obviously perverse incentive. In 2014, the federal government seized $4.5 billion from people who had committed no crime.
Private sector burglars that year pinched an estimated $3.9 billion from their victims, demonstrating at least one activity in which government outperformed the private sector.
Asset forfeiture laws were created with the intention of giving law enforcement the tools to combat powerful drug lords and terrorists, but the actual victims are more commonly people who operate in the cash-only economy.
Under the Orwellian-named Equitable Sharing Program, 61,998 seizures have been made since 2001. Local law enforcement units seize assets based on the suspicion of federal law violation, then turn the loot over to the feds, who rebate most of it back as a “finder’s fee.” The average seizure was $8,800, not exactly what drug kingpins carry around.
Matt Lee, a Michigan 31-year-old who was moving back to his family in California and to try for a job, is a typical case. He was pulled over by a state…
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