Civil Asset Forfeiture

Want to Stop Asset Forfeiture Abuse? Teach Americans That It Happens.

People don't like it when cops take property without getting convictions.


police stop
Credit: Arne9001 |

Americans really, really don't like it when police seize citizens' property and keep it for themselves, especially when the authorities have not proven guilt.

That's the latest data from a new poll from the Cato Institute (and YouGov) examining attitudes about police. Cato notes that a full 84 percent of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture is when police seize property and assets from people suspected of crimes and then keep it for themselves. Note the use of "suspected" not "convicted." Police do not have to convict suspects of crimes to use civil asset forfeiture. In many cases, they don't even have to charge them.

A bipartisan justice push has prompted reforms to regulations in several states (Ohio is the most recent). But despite the fact that Americans significantly oppose the practice, it continues in many places and is authorized and encouraged by the Department of Justice as well.

The latest opposition numbers match almost perfectly numbers from last spring taken from polls in Florida (84 percent) and Utah (83 percent).

There's more useful news for those who know and object to the practice. Even when permitting forfeiture, the majority of people who participated in the survey of 2,000 said they don't want local law enforcement agencies to have control over the assets they seize. Only 24 percent support local agencies keeping it for themselves. The rest either wanted the revenue to go into the state's general fund (48 percent) or in a state-controlled law enforcement fund (28 percent).

Those numbers matter because it indicates that Americans grasp the corrupt incentives that come from allowing police to keep what they seize. Forfeited money and property has been used by police departments to pad budgets, pay overtime, and when law enforcement agencies grow dependent on this money, it encourages the abuse we've seen all across the country.

That asset forfeiture continues at all given its unpopularity among Americans is evidence of how much power law enforcement and prosecutors have over state legislatures. The last couple years have seen some important reforms in New Mexico, Florida, California, Ohio, and elsewhere. But we've also seen efforts for reform get gutted by those who profit off the abusive system (as happened in October in Pennsylvania). Pushes for reforms will continue in the new year. Hopefully there will be some more wins. Teaching Americans what asset forfeiture actually is and how it works would definitely help.

Read more about the poll results at Cato here.

NEXT: Turkey: The Dangers of Historical Analogy

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  1. Reform civil asset forfeiture??? No. I say abolish it. Criminal forfeiture already allows for assets to be seized and either returned to victims or put to other uses – but with the protections of Constitutional due process.

    1. “Reform civil asset forfeiture??? No. I say abolish it.”

      Precisely. Allowing ANY form of this to exist is a huge mistake.

      Anyone in “law enforcement” that has anything to do with this can not possibly be a real American. Get the Hell out of my country.

    2. Civil forfeiture is a violation of the 5th Amendment:
      No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

  2. This is the problem – most people lean libertarian when they think it could happen to them. But if you think ‘I’m innocent, I have nothing to hide’, then you are part of the problem.

    And since when it’s a conviction necessary anyway. We expel people on campus despite never being convicted of sexual assault.

  3. Hell, there’s finally Hope, and that’s a Change!

    1. Sessions would like a word with you out back.

      1. One word? I can handle that!

        1. You could be chipwooder czar if you keep that up.

  4. Cops all around New Jersey write traffic tickets for no purpose other than the revenue. They’ll go out of their way to find or fabricate an offense that does not carry license points so that people will just pay them instead of fighting in court.

    I don’t find this practice much different and it certainly lowers people’s opinion of cops.

  5. What about when it happens to Mexicans? How do we feel about it then?

    1. Who is this ‘we’ you speak of? I think most libertarians care about it no matter who is victimized by it. That’s exactly what makes us libertarians.

      1. Look, a shady guy by the name of Julio carrying a large amount of cash? That’s at least suspicious isn’t it?

        1. Suspicious and I’m stealing your shit, because, are two totally different things.

    2. It depends. Did the authorities seize their pot? Were the Mexicans engaged in ass-sex?

      We need more info to make a ruling.

      1. So, if Mexicans, ass sex, and pot are all involved, then libertarians care extra extra much about it, right?

  6. I didn’t see the word ‘theft’ used even once.

    1. Oh no, theft was definitely being used.

    2. It’s not theft when the biggest organized crime gang around (government) does it.

    3. civil asset forfeiture

      Same thing.

  7. The problem with Americans is that they have divided themselves up into teams. Two, to be exact. When McAfee said that every 4 years Americans come together to bully their neighbors, he was spot on. The team sets the agenda and the fans cheer for whatever that means. You just take the good with the bad. So with conservatives, you get less regulation, less taxes, freer markets. But with that you have to take the war on drugs and foreign wars, whether you like it or not. With ‘liberals’, don’t get me started on that, you get legal cannabis and gay marriage, but you get big intrusive government, identity politics, and high taxes, whether you like it or not. And you have to root for one of the teams, or become a social pariah politically.

    Both of the teams care about ‘their’ rights, the things their party favors, but would send the other team off to camps for the slightest sin against their team agenda.

    Libertarians are alone in caring about other people’s rights. Progs want to send libertarians to the gas chambers for daring to support free market capitalism. Conservotards want to send libertarians to the gas chambers for smoking pot.

    This is how you get such unconstitutional bullshit as asset forfeiture.

  8. Maybe Remy can write the asset forfeiture Christmas song parody that will finally call attention to this issue: ‘Police Stole My Car’.

    1. It’s probably just workplace violence. I mean, Muslims say this Allah Akbar shit all of the time, whether they’re eating dinner, mowing the lawn, or murdering infidels, so you really can’t know.

      1. All joking aside, Muslims do say allah akbar for other things (they are the first words of the call to prayer and also a common thing to shout when someone converts to Islam), but the phrase is mainly a battle cry.

        Alhamdullah (praise be to god = good) and inshallah (god willing = maybe) are more common phrases.

        1. Of course. I wasn’t trying to deny that, just pointing out the idiocy of the media in determining what a specific situation might overwhelmingly point to.

          1. I don’t really pay much attention to “the media” these days. Are people really getting up and talking about “allahu akbar” being a common phrase like that?

            It is something that people say in all kinds of situations where violence is not immanent. But this is obviously not one of those situations.

    2. I don’t get it. It’s perfectly obvious to anyone with a brain that it’s someone pissed off about what’s going on in Syria and thinks he’s on a mission from God.

      I suppose lots of questions remain about whether he was part of any organized group. And it is a lot more like a political assassination than your typical terrorist attack (he had a specific target and didn’t seem interested in murdering anyone else).

      But it’s dumb to tiptoe around the fact that he was religiously motivated and thought he was doing God’s work.

  9. Harvard lecturer worries in Slate that Berlin jihad attack will “give a big boost to the far-right”

    Yascha Mounk is a lecturer on government at Harvard University and a fellow in the political reform program at the Soros-funded New America foundation. He writes: “And the murder at Berlin’s Christmas market is very likely to incite hatred against innocent immigrants and refugees.”

    Has the Left really sunk this low? Yes, the Left has really sunk this low.

    1. The left doesn’t even fucking know what ‘far right’ means. They’re still calling the Nazis far right. National Socialist Working Party. Right wing for sure. Up is Down…

      1. that’s because when you ask a liberal who their idea of a principled conservative is, they all say eisenhower. assuming they think it’s possible to be principled and conservative at the same time at all, of course.

      2. Does anyone know what “far right” means? I’m not sure that I do.

        It does seem to mean different things in Europe and the US, though. The US far right might be a little paranoid, but generally are in the “leave me alone” camp. In Europe the term seems to be more associated with racial/ethnic nationalism and right-authoritarianism.

        If you look at it in terms of conservatism, I think it makes some sense. Conservatism has to do with tradition and the past. In Europe, the traditional order involves monarchies and rivalries among the different ethnic and linguistic groups and nations. In the US the tradition conservatives look to involves a lot more lassaiz-faire stuff and self-reliance.

        1. Far right means not left. Rightwing extremist means the same thing.

        2. Left is the welfare, nanny, revolutionary state. Its all about change and violence to achieve that end.

          Right is conservativism in state, fiscal and religious matters. Its all about reluctant change.

          Libertarianism (classic liberalism) is right in the middle. No welfare, no nanny state, no state religious matters, fiscal minimalism and as little force as possible for Rule of Law.

          Europe is so far left that racial/ethnic nationalist is deemed “far right” but is actually in the middle somewhere because they are fine with welfare just want to keep as many foreigners out.

    2. “Excuse me, pardon me… just stepping over these dead bodies here… thank you. Can I have the Microphone for a second? Yeah… you, let’s focus on me, not the bodies ok, I’m talking here. ”

      *clears throat*

      “Yes, I’m worried that innocent immigrants and refugees will be the focus of hateful remarks after some violence.”

    1. Is she going to film that on her toilet cam?

    2. Don’t you have to get pregnant to have an abortion? You know where I’m going with this, right?

      1. That it’s damn near impossible to determine which of her folds is the genitalia in the first place?

          1. She just needs to find which one of the 58 genders can reproduce asexually and identify as that.

    3. What the fuck? I’m all for people being able to have abortions if that’s what they think is appropriate. But that’s just retarded.

    4. Why would she put this in past tense? Hell, she can still get preggers.

      C’mon, Lena, go get seeded and have a ‘bortion party. No one stopping you.

      By the way, Lena, is your Dad still drawing female genitalia?…..D546_e.jpg

  10. It’s not stealing, if the government does it.

    It’s… ad hoc extrajudicial taxation. FAIR SHARE, motherfucker.

  11. file under: Team Stupid gonna stupid

    A new bill in South Carolina would “ban porn” by forcing computer manufacturers and retailers to install a porn blocker on every new laptop sold?and then charge consumers $20 to remove it.

    1. They did, after all, elect Lindsey Graham to the Senate, multiple fucking times. I keep thinking about moving there, and every time that little fact makes me reconsider.

      You really cannot trust ‘conservatives’ anymore than you can ‘liberals’. Neither one of them are a real thing outside of being the flip side of the same statist coin.

    2. Normally, I would have assumed (R), but nowadays, I had to look (to see who is bantaxing porn / team stupid)

    3. I don’t think Tennessee will go along with that.

    4. It would just be one more reason to wipe and reinstall the OS when you buy a laptop. They come with too much junk as it is.

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