The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-185) was created as a way for law enforcement agencies to fight drug traffickers, money launderers, and other organized crime operations, without having to spend the time and resources required to prepare a full-blown criminal case.
Under the rules of civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement agencies are able to seize money and property that they suspect is being used to commit a crime or represents profits from criminal activity. This can be done without securing a conviction or even charging the individual who owns the property with a crime.
While the original intent of this law was noble, its implementation has been corrupted by the financial incentives it offers to enforcement agencies at all levels of government. In most cases, assets that are seized can be used to supplement the budget of the agencies involved. Further, while originally designed to fight organized crime, civil asset forfeiture has been increasingly used against individuals and businesses with no connection to organized crime, and only very tenuous links to any crime at all.
While a central tenet of American justice has long been that a person was innocent until proven guilty, this is reversed in cases of civil asset forfeiture. Individuals who have had their assets seized have to prove that they are innocent in order to have a chance to reclaim their property. This process can be time consuming, and very expensive.
As civil asset forfeiture abuse increased, it has also gained greater attention in the media, among civil society organizations and even as the butt of jokes among TV comedians.
The seizure of Wealthy Max’ property in 2014, and the government’s stubborn refusal to return it in the face of significant evidence that their original allegations are untrue, is a perfect example of this current American tragedy.
Below are a links to resources on the Civil Asset Forfeiture issue:
The U.S. Department of Justice webpage devoted to civil asset forfeiture:
A report on civil asset forfeiture from The Institute For Justice:
The Forfieture Endangers American Rights Foundation (FEAR), a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness of civil asset forfeiture:
A recent report on the need for civil asset forfeiture reform published on The Heritage Foundation website:
The announcement by Representative Tim Walberg (Michigan’s 7th Congressional District) of the civil asset forfeiture reform bill he has co-sponsored:
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Civil Forfeiture