Using Drug Laws to Steal From Innocent People

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Radley Balko has a story in the Jackson Free Press noting that the Supreme Court has decided to hear a disturbing asset forfeiture case from Illinois. In case anyone needs a refresher on the absurdity of our forfeiture laws, this sums it up nicely: 

Civil asset forfeiture is a particularly odious outgrowth of the drug war. While few would argue that criminals ought to be able to keep the proceeds of their crimes, civil forfeiture allows the government to seize and keep property without actually having to prove a crime was committed in the first place. Hence, forfeiture cases tend to have names like U.S. v. Eight Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Dollars, or U.S. v. One 1987 Jeep Wrangler. Proceeds from civil forfeiture at the state and local level usually go back to the police departments and prosecutors' offices, giving them a clear and unmistakable incentive to seize as much property as often as possible.

Balko goes on to explain why the Supreme Court isn’t likely to curb the practice and I agree with his analysis. Hopefully, however, the case will at least afford us a rare opportunity to spark national discussion about the chronic abuse of asset forfeiture laws.

As sad as this sounds, the best case scenario here might a New York Times headline that reads "Supreme Court Rules Police May Confiscate Property Without Evidence of a Crime." If nothing else, I hope we can all at least acknowledge that this is happening.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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