Model Criminal Forfeiture Law

Model Criminal Forfeiture Law
Standard to deter crime and protect property

IJ client Zaher El-Ali is challenging the state of Texas' right to seize his 2004 Chevrolet Silverado based on the fact that someone else drove the truck while intoxicated.
Video: Ending Forfeiture Abuse: How States Can Be Tough on Crime and Respect Property Rights 

Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on cars, cash and other private property by government today. Being accused of a crime is sufficient for law enforcement in most states to take your property.  And if you don’t initiate a civil lawsuit against your own property, you soon lose it.  Worse of all, most states allow the law enforcement agency that seized your property to keep the majority of it to supplement their own budgets.   

This is because of poorly written, overly complex and biased civil forfeiture laws that favor police profiting from property taken from property owners well before the owners have their day in court.  

These laws treat property as guilty until the owners hire lawyers, go to court, and try to obtain court orders forcing the police to return their property to them.  This bizarre and costly process causes many property owners to give up and not even attempt to get back their property.

The Institute for Justice released a report called Policing for Profit: the Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, which identified only three states with asset forfeiture laws and practices rated as "B" or higher.

This is far too few.  To help states improve their law, IJ commissioned a team of experts to draft a model criminal forfeiture law that every state legislature could adopt completely or in parts.

Building on the laws in those three states, the comprehensive document is premised on two simple but important ideas: (1) law enforcement agencies should not profit from forfeiture and (2) a jury should find the accused guilty of a crime before the state takes final title to his or her property.

As part of its commitment to protecting property rights, IJ has launched a campaign to end civil forfeiture laws and replace them with criminal forfeiture laws through litigation, legislation, and in the court of public opinion.  

This model law is an important component of IJ's strategy to ensure that every American's property is safe from the abuse of self-enriching enforcement of asset forfeiture laws.


Model Law

Reports, Maps, Charts and Facts

Criminal Forfeiture: IJ Model State Law (PDF)

Report: Forfeiting Justice: How Texas Police and Prosecutors Cash In On Seized Property (November 2010)

Report: Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture (March 2010)

Criminal Forfeiture: IJ Model State Law (Word DOC) Related Case: Van Meter v. Turner
Report: Forfeiting Accountability: Georgia Law Enforcement's Hidden Civil Forfeiture Funds (March 2011)
Report: Inequitable Justice: How Federal "Equitable Sharing" Encourages Local Police and Prosecutors to Evade State Civil Forfeiture Law for Financial Gain (October 2011)
Report: A Stacked Deck: How Minnesota's Civil Forfeiture Laws Put Citizens' Property at Risk
Report: Rotten Reporting in the Peach State: Civil Forfeiture in Georgia Leaves the Public in the Dark 
Report: Arizona's Profit Incentive in Civil Forfeiture: Dangerous for law enforcement; Dangerous for Arizonans 
Related Case: State of Texas v. One 2004 Chevrolet Silverado
Related Case: United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass. (The Motel Caswell)


Op-eds, News Articles and Links
Release: Abolishing the Civil Forfeiture Racket: National Legal Groups Join Forces to End Civil Forfeiture (May 24, 2011) Article: Federal Asset Seizures Rise, Netting Innocent With Guilty The Wall Street Journal (August 23, 2011)
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers pass a resolution committing to work with IJ to end civil asset forfeiture (PDF) (May 20, 2011) Article: Despite law, schools get little of assets seized from crime suspects; The Indianapolis Star Online (August 17, 2010)

Article: End Policing for Profit; The Huffington Post (April 12, 2010)

Article: IJ Report Kicks Off New Campaign Against Civil Forfeiture Abuse; Liberty and Law (April 2010)
Article: Civil Asset Forfeiture; MotherJones (April 7, 2010)
Article: How the police grab your stuff; The Economist (April 1, 2010)
Video: Federal & Local Law Enforcement Agencies Try to Take Family Motel from Innocent Owners
Video: Ending Forfeiture Abuse: How States Can Be Tough on Crime and Respecting Property Rights; (January 29, 2013)

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