Non-criminals make up 80 percent of civil asset forfeiture seizures carried out by the Drug Enforcement Agency since 2007, according to a report released last week by the Department of Justice.
From the Washington Post:
The Drug Enforcement Administration takes billions of dollars in cash from people who are never charged with criminal activity, according to a report issued today by the Justice Department’s Inspector General.
Since 2007, the report found, the DEA has seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of involvement with the drug trade. But 81 percent of those seizures, totaling $3.2 billion, were conducted administratively, meaning no civil or criminal charges were brought against the owners of the cash and no judicial review of the seizures ever occurred.
That total does not include the dollar value of other seized assets, like cars, homes, electronics and clothing.
These seizures are all legal under the controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows authorities to take cash, contraband and property from people suspected of crime. But the practice does not require authorities to obtain a criminal conviction, and it allows departments to keep seized cash and property for themselves unless individuals successfully challenge the forfeiture in court. Critics across the political spectrum say this creates a perverse profit motive, incentivizing police to seize goods not for the purpose of fighting crime, but for padding department budgets.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced legislation two weeks ago to overhaul this system at the federal level.
Twelve states already have forfeiture laws that require a criminal conviction. Arkansas could’ve been the thirteenth state to take this step, but legislation introduced by State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith failed to pass the Senate last week.
According to the Institute for Justice, Arkansas police have seized over $80 million in cash and nearly 10,000 vehicles between 2000 and 2014.
While it’s sad that many legislators in Arkansas apparently believe it’s perfectly fine for the government to seize the property of Arkansans, here’s hoping the legislature decides to protect the property of its citizens in a future legislative session.