Civil asset forfeiture is a scary thing. I support law enforcement, but any tool can be abused and this one is ripe for abuse.
According to the Institute for Justice,
In…civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize and keep cash and property that was allegedly involved in criminal activity—without ever proving a crime was actually committed. Unlike criminal forfeiture, with civil forfeiture a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime—or even charged with a crime—to permanently lose his or her cash, car, home or other property. Even property owners who are acquitted of crimes can still lose their property.
The IoJ report on civil forfeiture in Arizona ($50 million in 2011) and the need for legislative reform of its use is eye-opening. This statement sums it up:
Civil forfeiture relies on a legal fiction: that inanimate objects like cars, houses, and
currency can be guilty of criminal activity.
Here’s a slightly humorous, but still frightening, take on the concept of civil forfeiture from John Oliver.