Today, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General released a report critiquing the department’s cash seizure and forfeiture activities.
Among the report’s findings are that the DOJ “cannot effectively assess whether asset forfeiture is being appropriately used” and that “many of the DEA’s interdiction seizures may not advance or relate to criminal investigations.” The report also notes that “for more than half of the interdiction seizures we sampled, which were seized without a warrant, the DEA could not verify whether they had advanced a criminal investigation.” Because of this, the OIG writes that the “risks to civil liberties are particularly significant when seizures that do not advance or relate to an investigation are conducted without a court-issued seizure warrant, the presence of illicit narcotics, or subsequent judicial involvement prior to administrative forfeiture.”
Earlier this year the Institute for Justice released a report examining state and federal forfeiture transparency and accountability practices. Although the DOJ received an A- for tracking seizures, it received a C for accounting for forfeiture fund spending. Also, according to IJ’s groundbreaking report “Policing for Profit,” between 1986 and 2014, funds deposited into the DOJ’s Assets Forfeiture Fund has increased by 4,667 percent, from $93.7 million to $4.5 billion.
Responding to today’s report, Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Darpana Sheth issued the following statement:
These findings fundamentally undercut law enforcement’s claim that civil forfeiture is a vital crime-fighting tool. Americans are already outraged at the Justice Department’s aggressive use of civil forfeiture, which has mushroomed into a multibillion dollar program in the last decade. This report only further confirms what we have been saying all along: Forfeiture laws create perverse financial incentives to seize property without judicial oversight and violate due process.
This report is one more illustration that the only solution to resolving these issues is to end the use of civil forfeiture once and for all.