The Institute for Justice has released its latest report on asset forfeiture. Despite some recent legislative attempts to add a much-needed conviction requirement to the seizure of property, most of the country still allows law enforcement to proceed under the assumption that money, vehicles and houses are “guilty,” even if those they take this property from are, for all intents and purposes, innocent.
The absence of this key factor has resulted in decades of nationwide abuse. The IJ’s updated chart ranking states’ asset forfeiture policies on an A-F scale shows only one A rating: New Mexico. The state’s recent passage of significant asset forfeiture reform is the only highlight in the report. The rest of the nation continues on its path of underachievement, preferring to defer to law enforcement’s best judgment on how to fight the Drug War. (While also occasionally used to target fraud and organized crime, forfeiture programs are now mostly deployed to take money from people/vehicles that smell like marijuana.)
The largest amount of resistance to asset forfeiture reform efforts come from the agencies that benefit most from the liquidation of seized property.
The highest grades correspond directly to states where local agencies have the least to gain from seized assets. Unsurprisingly, removing the incentive to simply take money/property has resulted in less abuse of forfeiture programs.
But these (few) speed bumps have done next to nothing to slow the asset forfeiture machine. It’s been on a downhill roll since the late 80s, resulting in $12.6 seized…