Scott Shackford on Ending Incentives for Civil Asset Forfeiture


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This election year has seen increased attention to the use and abuse of civil asset forfeiture programs by law enforcement agencies. These programs allow officers and federal law enforcers to seize and keep funds and property they claim are connected to crime. Asset forfeiture has been a huge force pushing the drug war forward, as it twists police incentives to focus on vice busts that could bring in the bucks for their budgets (and sweet cars and houses) rather than crimes of violence.  While many asset forfeiture regulations are hammered out at the state level, the federal government plays a huge role in encouraging this behavior. The Department of Justice's Equitable Sharing Program, established in 1984, pushes for local agencies to participate in joint investigations with them in exchange for receiving a share of the assets seized. Congress, writes Scott Shackford, can help fight police abuse by ending federal incentives for local asset forfeiture.