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How to Fight Civil Forfeiture

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Institute for Justice

Attorney Scott Bullock heads up the Institute for Justice (IJ) initiative against civil forfeiture. In September, he told reason about IJ's plans to push back against the overuse of laws that allow unfair confiscation of property by law enforcement.

  1. Communication. Most people can't believe that in America you can lose property without being convicted of a crime. When people learn about civil forfeiture, a vast majority are opposed to it. We created a website (endforfeiture.com) that serves as a one-stop shop for anyone interested in finding out about this practice, and we published Policing for Profit, a study documenting the extent of forfeiture abuse at virtually all levels of government.
  2. Strategic litigation. We continue to file lawsuits that target the two fundamental problems that lie at the heart of civil forfeiture laws: the lack of protections for innocent property owners, and the perverse profit incentive that allows police and prosecutors to keep what they forfeit for their own use.
  3. Legislation. It is very difficult to change civil forfeiture laws legislatively due to the power of law enforcement lobbies. But it's not impossible. This year, Minnesota passed solid reforms. And two bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would dramatically change how the federal government practices forfeiture.