Civil Asset Forfeiture and the Constitution

Civil asset forfeiture as currently practiced is often abusive and frequently violates numerous constitutional rights. It must be reformed, or better yet: renounced. Asset forfeiture has been with us since the country’s beginning—and even earlier in England. But recent developments in how law enforcement officials seize citizens’ property who have not been charged with or convicted of a crime have raised serious concerns—including racial profiling and constitutional infringements.

The Justice Department’s Assets Forfeiture Fund took in $93.7 million in 1986, but grew to $4.5 billion in 2014. Between 2001 and 2014, the Justice Department reported nearly $29 billion worth of seized assets, not counting assets taken and kept by the states. Between 1997 and 2013, 13 percent of forfeitures were for criminal activities, while 87 percent were civil.

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