While 15 states are pushing against civil-asset forfeiture, the rest of the US is still seeing local, law enforcement legally obtaining personal property but not bringing charges against the respective person(s). Civil-asset forfeiture is hopefully at the end of its rope. The change started with an initial, bipartisan effort of DIY folks around the nation.
To bring everyone into the know, civil forfeiture enables authorities to take possession of an array of personal effects including cash, cars and the very roof over law-abiding citizens’ heads—on suspicion alone. Cops can then use such civil assets to increase budgetary spending among other, questionable activity. Further, they’ve stood their ground on this practice amid public intolerance.
[Video: courtesy of Institute for Justice]
Recall The Caswells enduring civil-asset forfeiture due to some of their customers being busted for drugs.
While authoritarian abuse still runs rampant in the US, public interest is finally seeing the justice scales starting to tip in their favor—both Republicans & Democrats. All Americans are waking up to the crookedness that is civil-asset forfeiture.
Iowa is among the states pushing back. Previously, the Midwest state’s police were required to only avail that respective property was tied to criminal activity via preponderance of evidence—i.e., the evidence outweighs hard facts. This term’s common use in civil cases. However, it’s not even comparable to the “clear and convincing” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” stance used to legitimately convict one for a crime.
But the nation is seeing an event horizon for ethical, legal jurisprudence—“clear and convincing” has become the proverbial bar… In order for the prosecution to even get their hands on possessions valued at under $5,000, a criminal conviction is mandated to be on the judicial table. It’s progress, but this legislation is but a small grasp at what Institute for Justice Counsel Lee McGrath calls “perverse financial incentives that warp law enforcement priorities to pursue cash instead of criminals.” Hey, it’s better than nothing.
Fighting The Status Quo
Tennessee’s on top of it too—with a somewhat-different avenue. Their legislators are considering civil-forfeiture property going toward general funding in an attempt to thwart corruption in law enforcement—it’s actually working. Institute of Justice’s Dick Carpenter availed research that proves “the financial incentives baked into civil-forfeiture laws influence law-enforcement behavior,” as it’s not uncommon for cops to retain 100 percent of what’s obtained via said laws. Looking at 2009 and going to 2014, Tennessee authorities raked in roughly $86 million from forfeiture justifications—in addition to whatever the seized automobiles and electronics were worth.
However, while states are implementing countermeasures, law enforcement’s still loopholing through those efforts. Through “equitable sharing,” law-enforcement officials bypass the aforementioned blocks via federal-agency aid—as the latter stands to gain profits too. Federal authorities kick over up to 80 percent of the take to state or local law. Out in New Hampshire, equitable sharing enabled local authorities to obtain over $1 million per year (2000-2013). Because of this, state officials are pushing for legislation to seal off that crooked crack in the law.
The solution lies within upping the evidential bar, cutting corrupt motivations and quashing local law’s loophole tactics of conspiring with federal authorities—state-law makers are on the case!
United States voters can take comfort in knowing the Legislative Branch and governors are pushing state representatives to drive reform revisions. By doing this, the Bill of Rights will sustain and perpetuate—“no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”