Today, President Donald Trump suggested he would “destroy the career” of an unnamed Texas State Senator who was said to be considering legislation that would require a criminal conviction before Texas law enforcement officials can use civil forfeiture to seize and keep an individual’s private property. Following the President’s remarks, Matt Miller, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Texas Office, issued the following statement:
Civil forfeiture creates a perverse incentive for police and prosecutors to go after money, not just crime. No one should lose his or her property without first being convicted of a crime.
Policymakers of every stripe agree that civil forfeiture is wrong. A recent poll found that 84 percent of Americans opposed the use of civil forfeiture. And both the Republican and Democratic party platforms called for civil forfeiture reform.
During the meeting, the Sheriff of Rockwell County, Texas grossly mischaracterized the nature of civil forfeiture reform. Reforming or eliminating civil forfeiture does nothing to limit law enforcement’s ability to catch and convict criminals. We hope that as the President becomes fully aware of the abuse intrinsic to civil forfeiture, he will see the need to limit forfeiture to criminal activity.
Across the country, legislators are working to stand up for Americans’ civil rights and limit or eliminate the abusive practice of civil forfeiture. State legislators have the responsibility to set the criminal code and its punishment. Legislators working to limit civil forfeiture should be applauded, not threatened or condemned.