The Institute for Justice aims to curtail, and ultimately, abolish civil forfeiture, one of the gravest abuses of power in the country today. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which takes property from convicted criminals, under civil forfeiture, property owners do not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose their cash, cars, businesses or even their homes.

Americans threatened with civil forfeiture face an appalling lack of due process that treats property owners worse than criminals:

Profit Incentive: In 43 states, police and prosecutors can keep anywhere from half to all of the proceeds they take in from civil forfeiture—a clear incentive to police for profit.

Equitable Sharing: Under a federal program called “equitable sharing,” local and state law enforcement can bypass state laws that limit civil forfeiture. By collaborating with a federal agency, they can move to forfeit property under federal law and receive up to 80 percent of forfeited proceeds. Granting law enforcement a direct financial stake in federal forfeiture litigation encourages profiteering and a lack of respect for federalism and state sovereignty.

Standard of Proof:  Nearly all states and the federal government require far less evidence than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal convictions.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: While many civil forfeiture laws do have a process for innocent owners to reclaim their property, all too often the burden of proof is on the owner—not the government. Therefore, under civil forfeiture, property owners have to prove their innocence and show that they were not aware of any criminal activity.

To roll back civil forfeiture, IJ has filed multiple lawsuits, written several publications scrutinizing the practice and led bipartisan efforts to enact legislative reforms. Through our efforts, we are determined to beat back civil forfeiture both in the court of law and court of public opinion.

Frequently Asked Questions About Civil Forfeiture

What is Civil Forfeiture? Does It Help Police Fight Crime? Read the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Civil Forfeiture.

Read the FAQ

Civil Forfeiture Cases

See More

Civil Forfeiture Legislation

Criminal Forfeiture Process Act

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Criminal Forfeiture Process Act

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.

Anti-Circumvention Forfeiture Act

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Anti-Circumvention Forfeiture Act

Under civil forfeiture, the state can permanently confiscate your cash, car, and other property, without a prosecutor convicting, or even charging you with a crime. Although some states have acted to protect innocent property owners,…

See More

Civil Forfeiture Research

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Frustrating, Corrupt, Unfair

Victims of civil forfeiture call it frustrating, corrupt and unfair. This first-of-its-kind survey describes the experiences of victims of one civil forfeiture program, Philadelphia’s.

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Does Forfeiture Work?

Forfeiture is a controversial tool police and prosecutors use to take and keep people’s cash, cars and even homes under the guise of fighting crime. This study is the first to look at whether state…

See More