Asset Forfeiture by Texas Law Enforcement

Asset forfeiture, the process whereby state and local agencies take permanent ownership of property under the finding or suggestion of criminal activity, has fostered growing concern in not only Texas but the national as a whole. Representatives of the state can use civil asset forfeiture to seize and forfeit property without criminal finding.

The most concerning observation is how rural agencies seem to be using forfeiture as a source of revenue rather than a law enforcement tool. There is a danger that local law enforcement jurisdictions will increasingly make spending decisions based on the availability of forfeiture revenue at the cost of both legitimacy of function and liberty of its citizens.

Larger and more densely-populated areas produce richer concentrations of forfeiture activity. Larger police forces and more residents can produce more interactions in which the seizure and forfeiture can occur, regardless of circumstances. Oddly, proximity to the southern border does not seem to influence the amount of forfeiture versus population alone, a puzzling revelation for a practice intended to interdict transnational narcotics trafficking.

The amount per-capita forfeiture activity tends to be greater outside of the major urban centers. This is doubly so in rural areas along major and minor highways, where it is not uncommon for a jurisdiction of only a few thousand Texans disproportionately forfeit tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

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