A Stacked Deck
A Stacked Deck:
How Minnesota's Civil Forfeiture Laws Put Citizens' Property at Risk
By Dick M. Carpenter II, Ph.D., Lee McGrath and Angela C. Erickson
This report examines the use of civil forfeiture in Minnesota, a state with unusually detailed forfeiture reporting, and finds that the state’s civil forfeiture system stacks the deck against property owners. Not only do law enforcement agencies receive a cut of the proceeds from property they take, but state law also makes it hard for people to win their property back.
From 2003 to 2010, forfeiture revenues in Minnesota jumped by 75 percent, even as crime rates declined. By and large, these revenues did not come from large busts of criminal kingpins: The average value of forfeited property was only about $1,000.
Worse, new data from late 2010 show that few forfeitures are reviewed by judges and property owners rarely challenge forfeitures, likely because of the small values involved and the daunting task of bringing a civil lawsuit.
This lack of judicial oversight and a strong financial incentive in forfeiture create a situation ripe for abuse.