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.

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Ending Civil Forfeiture Cases

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