Report on Civil Asset Forfeiture Aimed at Helping People Avoid Government Injustice

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Competitive Enterprise Institute – A new Competitive Enterprise Institute report calls attention to a government injustice impacting too many Americans: civil asset forfeiture. The report offers advice to citizens on how to reduce risk of property seizure by law enforcement officials, such as during traffic stops, and explains how government succeeds in seizing and keeping personal property even without a criminal conviction.

“We live in a country where law enforcement officers regularly take property from civilians stemming from unproven police allegations of criminal conduct, with little chance of ever having the property returned,” explained report author Dan Greenberg, attorney and former state legislator. “The U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect the property of its citizens, but civil asset forfeiture does the opposite.”

The report delves into the major barriers people face in trying to get their cash, vehicle, or other property returned after it’s been seized by the government. While evidence suggests the median cash forfeiture in most states is less than a thousand dollars, in some states a few hundred dollars, property owners bear the cost of legal representation – which typically exceeds the value of the property. Because of that, people give up.

Another problem is that police departments benefit financially from seizing personal property, the report explains, so they have incentive to do it and lobby lawmakers in states and in Congress to keep the status quo.

Absent reform from lawmakers, there are steps that citizens can and should take to reduce their risks when interacting with police, the report explains. “This paper is written for those law-abiding civilians who wish to exercise their rights under the law to protect their ownership of their rightfully acquired and rightfully possessed property from the wrongful exercise of government officials’ seizure and forfeiture powers,” said Greenberg.

The report walks through scenarios on how to get through a routine police stop in a calm, responsive, legal way that reduces law enforcement ire or added scrutiny. 

SOURCE Competitive Enterprise Institute

1 Comment

  1. I’m highly skeptical about the report, just from the sample– because it uses the boilerplate about a lack of conviction of criminal activity against the owner.

    The usual situation is that they have evidence against the property. The evidence needed to counter this is laughably low, for federal cases– state by state is, of course, a state matter. A common example is where they HAVE the illegal substances that were purchased, they HAVE the cash– but the guy holding the cash says that it’s not his, it’s his mom’s, she pulled it out to pay the rent. The evidence required to get it back in that case would be a bank record showing she had at least that much in the bank, and pulled roughly that much before the arrest.

    We’ve probably all heard those ridiculous statements where folks are reported as dodging being caught red-handed with “these aren’t my pants”? When you dig deep enough, that’s the case.

    Digging into the story is needed, too– all too often the story gets pushed as something like “New Orleans grandfather has life saving stolen from him at airport on trip to buy truck for home business.”
    Actual story: father and son with unrelated pending drug charges were arrested with cash, at the airport, after a drug sale where the cops
    got the drugs and the buyer and were just after the sellers; the “grandfather” impersonated a police officer (his other son– and man, do I feel for the son who is a cop) and the son with him claimed to be a disabled vet. After it became clear (from things like LOOKING AT THEIR TICKETS) that they were not who they had claimed to be, they claimed to have been looking at a truck and decided not to buy it, and the money was from emptying their savings account. Neither could give any kind of contact information for the truck they were there to buy, any kind of banking information for the accounts they’d emptied to have the cash, any kind of record of having gotten the cash in the first place (as it was claimed to be inheritance and unemployment payments, this would be dead easy), ect.
    …rather different story, hm?

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