Civil Asset Forfeiture: When Good Intentions Go Awry

Despite forfeiture’s noble intentions, the many stories of innocent victims and law enforcement abuses—too many to ignore—indicate that the pendulum has swung too far in favor of law enforcement and that systemic problems exist that should be rectified. Yet, in reforming civil forfeiture laws, we must be careful not to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. For the sake of all citizens, the process must be made fair and transparent, and the profit incentive in forfeiture should be abolished, or at the very least severely constrained and subjected to considerable oversight. Civil asset forfeiture should remain focused on its original purpose of depriving criminals of their ill-gotten gains, but leaders must be sure that it is criminals and only criminals who are being impacted.

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