Civil forfeiture is a serious assault by government on cars, cash and other property.
To lose your property in most states, prosecutors do not have to charge you, let alone convict you of a crime. And if you don’t engage in civil litigation, you may lose it in as few as 20 days. Worse, most states allow police and prosecutors to keep most of the forfeited property to supplement their budgets.
These civil laws treat property as guilty until a property owner hires a lawyer, goes to civil court, and obtains an order forcing the government to return his property. This bizarre and expensive civil process causes more than 80% of owners in some states to not even try to get back their property.
The Institute for Justice’s report Policing for Profit: the Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture identified only seven states with forfeiture laws and practices rated as “B” or higher.
Seven is too few.
To help, IJ enlisted prosecutors and defense attorneys to draft a model criminal forfeiture process that state legislators and governors can enact in full or in part.
The model is premised on: (1) police and prosecutors should not profit from forfeiture; and (2) an owner should be found guilty of a crime before the state takes final title to his property in criminal court.
As part of its commitment to protecting property and due process rights, IJ has launched a campaign to end civil forfeiture and replace it with criminal forfeiture through litigation, legislation and in the court of public opinion.
This model is an important component of IJ’s efforts to ensure that every American and his property are safe from government abuse.