Man Who Helped Create Civil Forfeiture Wants to End It

If you need another expert opinion on the dangers and concerns around civil asset forfeiture, look no further than the man who helped start it.

Brad Cates, the former director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office who helped create the civil forfeiture system as we know it, has become a staunch critic of the now common law enforcement tactic.  Cates writes in The Wall Street Journal:

“During the Reagan administration I helped establish these programs because I believed they would quickly channel seized criminals’ profits into the fight against organized crime and drug cartels. Yet over time we have created a new bad incentive: policing for profit, out of the reach of the proper legislative budget process.”

Cates references IJ’s latest civil forfeiture study, pointing out that a mere 13% of Justice Department forfeitures from 1997-2013 were criminal forfeitures. Meanwhile, 87% were civil forfeitures, meaning law enforcement seized property without charging the owners with any crime.

“Considering the intertwined financial incentives, reform must happen at both the state and federal level. States and the federal government can look to what New Mexico had done as a template for broad-based action. Three decades ago I helped create our civil asset forfeiture system; now it is time to end it.”

IJ released the second edition of our groundbreaking survey, Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, back in November. Check out the report for a state-by-state comparison of civil forfeiture laws.

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