Stop Policing for Profit in the District

In January 2013, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced the Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendment Act, which would substantially improve D.C.’s forfeiture laws. The Institute for Justice is joined by the ACLU, the Public Defender’s Office, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and forfeiture victims in our support of the bill.

Civil forfeiture is the power of law enforcement to seize and keep property suspected of being involved in criminal activity. Police can take property without even charging the owner with a crime. Worse, in all but a handful of states, forfeiture proceeds fund law-enforcement agencies, giving them a direct financial incentive to abuse this power.

The Institute for Justice gave D.C. an F for its civil forfeiture laws. Currently, the District currently provides few protections for property owners and incentivizes forfeiture by returning 100 percent of the proceeds to the seizing agencies.

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  • The bill would direct all forfeiture proceeds to a general fund, eliminating the profit incentive under current law that allows law enforcement agencies to financially benefit from the property they seize.
  • It provides a prompt and meaningful opportunity to contest seizures.
  • The Act raises the burden of proof on the government to show that the property can be forfeited in the first place.
  • It restores the presumption of innocence. Property owners shouldn’t be guilty until proven innocent.

No innocent owner should lose their homes, cars, cash or other property to civil forfeiture.

Click here to contact your D.C. city councilmembers in support of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendment Act.

Read “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.”

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