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Civil Asset Forfeiture — Policing for Profit

Sharon Kyle: Using the authority to seize property from individuals who won’t get their property back without first going through legal procedures where they bear the burden of proof, some cities are able to substantially supplement their revenue streams.

I lost it today. Just couldn't sit down and write a simple 300-word piece on civil asset forfeiture without breaking down. For reasons I won't cover here, writing about civil asset forfeiture was just too hard today — it really hit a nerve.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture — Policing for Profit—Sharon Kyle

On May 10th, the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter is putting on an asset forfeiture panel. I'll be moderating. Let's hope I can hold it together then. The panel will give more in-depth explanations of the police procedure and how it is being abused. At the event, I'll talk a little bit about my own personal introduction to the world of civil asset forfeiture. But here's a video that puts a humorous spin on a very unfunny issue.

So, if your interest is piqued and you can't wait till May 10th and don't want to do a Google search, here's a little more background. Civil asset forfeiture is a term used to describe what happens when law enforcement agencies take a person's personal property without due process. The procedure has existed since before the founding of this country. But historically, these laws gave the police the authority to confiscate property that was wrongfully used or wrongfully acquired. However, if you watched the video, John Oliver makes it pretty clear that in many jurisdictions civil asset forfeiture has morphed into something much more nefarious.

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Using the authority to seize property from individuals who won’t get their property back without first going through legal procedures where they bear the burden of proof, some cities are able to substantially supplement their revenue streams. And even though the civil asset forfeiture laws are racially neutral, like the drug war, the its victims are disproportionately Black and Brown. According to organizations like the ACLU and the Institute for Justice, these laws pose some of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today, too often making it easy and lucrative for law enforcement to take and keep property—regardless of the owner’s guilt or innocence.

Just before leaving office, former Attorney General Eric Holder barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without warrants or criminal charges, unless federal authorities were directly involved in the case. Under previous administration,s the federal government incentivized civil asset forfeiture programs by making them easier to enforce.

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Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive

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