Civil Asset Forfeiture

Best of Reason on Asset Forfeiture: We've Had Your Back for Decades

Eric Holder finally listens.


Wikimedia Commons

Attorney General Eric Holder just made the best call of his political career: ending the Department of Justice's Equitable Sharing Program, which incentivized local cops to merrily commit plunder and share the proceeds with the feds. While this move will not end the unconscionable practice of police forfeiture, it's still a praiseworthy step in the right direction.

Reason has been standing up for the little guys whose stuff gets stolen by government thugs for longer than virtually any other journalism outlet (longer than I have been alive, in fact). While no one can deny the excellent work done by The Washington Post and others in recent months to bring this criminal practice the broader attention it deserved, Reason writers—including former staffer Radley Balko, now at WaPost—were among the earliest, most consistent, and most vocal opponents of asset forfeiture.

Here is a Reason article raising hell about forfeiture abuse from the March 1989 issue of the magazine:

Once someone is charged with selling narcotics, for example, prosecutors can seize any of the suspect's assets that might represent proceeds of the drug sales. This usually happens prior to trial, before the person has been convicted of anything. Often all of the suspect's assets are frozen, so that he or she has nothing left to hire an attorney. 

Coverage continued in the May 1990 issue with Stefan Herpel's "United States vs. One Assortment of 89 Firearms." Richard Miniter exposed the dubious motives of forfeiture reform's opponents in a groundbreaking 1993 article, "Ill-Gotten Gains." Our in-depth coverage continued throughout the '90s and '00s. Then, beginning in 2010, Balko gave the issue a much higher profile with his feature story for the magazine, "The Forfeiture Racket."

More recently, Reason has continued to sound the alarm bells here, here, and here. And asset forfeiture reform is on Reason's "to-do list" for Congress this year.

I publicized the rage-inducing case of Wally Kowalski, who was raided by cops and lost all of his "auctionable" assets—even though they didn't charge him with a crime until after he talked to the media about it.

Even more from Reason on asset forfeiture here.

NEXT: Federal Asset Forfeiture Scaled Back, GOP Presidential Debates Scaled Back, Inmate Describes Burning Pain When Being Executed: P.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. [Holder] barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.

    How long after the seizure do they have before coughing up a proof?

    1. Infinitely long.

      They don’t have to provide proof at all.

  2. Holder is on his way out, this is nothing but a token gesture. He had all this time, what 8 years? to do something on civil rights and didn’t do jack shit.

    If anything, he’s being led by the nose by libertarians like Rand Paul who are speaking out on these issues and it’s making the democrats look bad on civil rights.

    2 other things. If Holder can just change the policy like that, then don’t get your hopes up, the next asshole that gets appointed to AG can and probably will reverse it just as quickly and double down on it.

    The 2nd of other things, cops will continue doing it and claim they didn’t know the policy changed and nothing.else.will.happen.

    1. Yes, don’t forget that ignorance of the law on the part of the arresting officer is no reason to invalidate an arrest and attendant searches or seizures. As long as the officer was acting “in good faith,” there’s no problem.

    2. Also, the new policy has some holes in it ex Joint Task Forces.

  3. Wow, maybe Holder isnt a complete idiot afterall.

    1. Well said, Anon-Bot.

  4. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop on this announcement. Whenever the Obama administration announces a policy change that seems promising at first glance, there’s always a catch…usually something horrible.

  5. my roomate’s aunt makes $83 an hour on the computer . She has been out of a job for 7 months but last month her check was $20229 just working on the computer for a few hours. read more……….

  6. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  7. up to I looked at the check 4 $9975 , I did not believe that my brother woz like they say trully taking home money in there spare time from their computer. . there best friend has done this less than 10 months and a short time ago paid for the depts on there home and purchased themselves a Ariel Atom . have a peek at this website………..
    ????? http://www.Workvalt.Com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.