Asset Forfeiture

Nearly 1 in 10 Knows Somebody Who Has Had Property Seized Without Criminal Charges

Polls consistently show the public, when informed, opposes civil forfeiture.

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The war on drugs is a war on you.
Credit: Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com

Looking at polls showing public attitudes toward civil asset forfeiture really helps you realize how much law enforcement and prosecutors are able to subvert the public interest in the name of pursuing money.

New polls from Utah and Florida show that once Americans understand what "civil asset forfeiture" is—a mechanism by which police can seize assets and property from people based on suspicion of criminal activity that does not have to be proven—they are overwhelmingly opposed to it. The numbers from the two polls were almost the same. In Utah 83 percent of those polled opposed the concept of civil asset forfeiture. In Florida, 84 percent opposed it. And yet, reforming the system is a huge struggle. Reformers in Florida just had a victory there, passing a new law requiring that people actually be charged with a crime in order to attempt to seize their stuff.

Understanding the issue is key. According to the Utah poll, 77 percent said they had never even heard of "civil asset forfeiture laws." And yet, nine percent in Utah and eight percent in Florida said they knew somebody who had their property seized by police without being charged with a crime.

So the information campaign is important, and we're seeing anti-civil forfeiture commentaries and editorials pop up in media outlets across the country where the issue is discussed. In New Mexico, where the toughest state-level asset forfeiture reform occurred a year ago, the citizenry were informed about forfeiture due to highly publicized police abuses captured on video. It seems likely that the more people learn about it and the more it keeps happening, the less complacent voters will be about it and the more they'll push for reform. Jason Snead, a policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial studies, pointed out in The Daily Signal how much police have become dependent on asset forfeiture and how little they seem to care about the impact:

In a 2001 survey of 1,400 law enforcement executives, 40 percent of respondents reported that they considered forfeiture revenues to be a necessary component of their budgets. Since 2008, 298 police and sheriffs' departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent of their budgets each year.

This is not the way that law enforcement financing is supposed to work. Each dollar of revenue generated by the forcible seizure of property is a dollar taken from a potentially wholly innocent person. Law enforcement proponents of civil forfeiture contend that they seldom, if ever, take money from people not actively involved in criminal activity, yet an amazing number of abusive forfeiture stories continue to surface. The fact is, too many law enforcement officers appear to be wholly indifferent (or at least insufficiently sensitive) to the actual guilt or innocence of the person whose life savings or family home is on the line.

Read more from Snead here. Read Reason on asset forfeiture here. Possibly the most important thing a knowledgeable libertarian can do about fighting civil asset forfeiture is to help spread the word about what it is and why it is bad to non-libertarians. Politicians who are considering pushing for reforms need to know that they're not going to end up punished at the polls when police unions and prosecutors turn against them. Since polls consistently show that an informed public opposes civil asset forfeiture, an education campaign should be a top priority.

Maybe this can help people understand: In Oklahoma, a sheriff was recently indicted for extortion and bribery over a civil asset forfeiture case involving $10,000 found in a car during a traffic stop.

NEXT: When Did the U.S. Repeal the Laws of Supply and Demand?

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  1. “When informed”

    Well, I see the problem.

    1. This just in 9 out of 10 people only care about problems they experience. When educated about the problems of the 10% they agree it sucks to be them.

  2. The fact is, too many law enforcement officers appear to be wholly indifferent (or at least insufficiently sensitive) to the actual guilt or innocence of the person whose life savings or family home is on the line.

    Depraved indifference is a requirement for the job.

  3. Yeah, well, you know what happens when you let your boot off the neck of the populace even a little? The goddamned Russian Revolution. Wanting to limit the police in any way is tantamount to expressing a desire for communist revolution.

    1. I’ve also been told that if you ever criticize police officers, it will make it so they stop doing their jobs, and then way more black people will get shot to death because cops weren’t there to protect them.

      Therefore, if you criticize the police it is because you hate black people and want them to die.

      Also, you’re all a bunch of hypocrites because no one ever protests against gang violence. For example, unthinking cop supporters assure me that this never happened.

      1. Therefore, if you criticize the police it is because you hate black people and want them to die.

        Well, now we know why Irish criticizes the police.

      2. Clearly a heavy police presence is keeping all these gangs in check.

        Keep up the good work, guys!

        You know what the real problem is? People who live in/around Chicago, contributing their tax dollars to keep the failure propped up.

        LOOK IN THE MIRROR, IRISH. And then move to Texas, like a real man.

        1. And live in a lawless anarchy where hillbillies ride around on horseback firing their guns in the air while yelling ‘YEE HAW’ and only stopping to periodically murder Apache?

          No thank you.

          1. Shit, I killed three redmen and rescued one white woman before breakfast today.

            1. Killed anybody today, Curly ?

              Day ain’t over.

  4. I listen to a radio station for the local news, but this fuckstick morning host just slobbers all over cop knob. He just can’t understand how any right thinking person would want to take away this tool for fighting the DRUGZ ! And his proof is that the Manchester police chief is in favor of it. You ask the guy getting the money if he should keep getting the money, and he says yes. Well, no shit.

    1. You should call in and ask him why he’s in favor of violating the fifth amendment of the Consitution.

      1. Most people like that only think they know the Constitution. When you point out what’s actually in it, get ready for a lot of name-calling.

        1. Yeah, pretty much. Or rationalizations like “that’s not how the courts have interpreted it!”

          1. It’s simpler than all that. Drugs are bad, mmm’kay. So anything to fight drugs is good. The police (totally unappreciated for their sacrifice, btw), are fighting the drugs, so anything they do is good. It’s all good if you work for the state, especially if you wear a uniform.

  5. “Polls show 1 in 10 knows somebody who has had property seized!” *

    * They all know the same guy

  6. Some of the other nine will honestly admit they like their taxes being reduced by this extracurricular revenue enhancement.

    1. Wait your telling me I should have to pay for the laws I want passed. Not in my America. I want laws passed that others have to pay for; that is the America I grew up in and love. /sarc

  7. a potentially wholly innocent person

    Yeah, none of those left.

  8. Wow, 1 out of 10 Americans are criminal scum who associate with known drug dealers!

    /sarc

  9. Knowledge is power, ignorance is bliss, and if it couldn’t do the time your money shouldn’t have done the crime.

    1. Why try to be well informed when ignorance actually is bliss.

  10. “In Utah 83 percent of those polled opposed the concept of civil asset forfeiture. In Florida, 84 percent opposed it.”

    Well, Utah and Florida are racist states.

    If you put it up to a vote in California and New York, I bet the outcome would depend on whether the forfeited money came from white people and whether it was spent on minorities, illegal immigrants, homosexuals, and retards.

    1. don’t forget the genderless people. Everybody forgets the genderless people!

      1. +1 Greendale Human Being

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  12. Kinda reminds me of NAZI Germany!

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  13. I was subjected to civil asset forfeiture. The towing company the cops called tried charging me a holding fee, but I refused to pay for my car back… I didn’t have a job at the time and refused to give up my pride.

    I just drive my mom’s old car now… the decision was more cost effective than paying the ~$1000 dollars i needed to use to fix up my honda anyway.

    The only bad part is that I lost an expensive amp and a 12 inch sub… I tried stealing it when I visited the tow yard but the guys just called the cops on me, lol. Those $#@! made a lot of money off me.

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