Civil Asset Forfeiture is unconstitutional

Chris Smith

In 2014, a 40-year-old carpenter from New Jersey was stopped on Interstate 95 in Virginia for having tinted windows, he had $18,000 to purchase a car. Police stated he looked nervous and consented to a search, the police took the money. He had to hire a lawyer to get it back. This was done in a process called Civil Asset forfeiture, occasionally called Civil seizure. 

Civil Asset Forfeiture is a controversial legal process, where police officers take assets from people suspected of a crime with or without being charged with a crime. Many times people aren’t charged with a crime. The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is strongly in favor of civil seizure. He is even quoted as saying that police “Should not have a high burden of proof higher than in a normal civil case.”

Civil seizure started because of the “drug war” in the eighties. It was meant to seize assets to stop the money. They basically made it so that if you can track the money, you can find the drugs or stop the trafficking altogether.  But it also makes many innocent people lose their money as well. Owners have to prove that they weren’t involved in a crime to get that money, and sometimes it takes months to a year for them to get it if they ever do.

Police officers put civil forfeitures in a civil forfeiture fund. In many states, police station get to keep some, if not all, of the money they keep for themselves. The money can be used to pay for things out of their budgets such as overtime, cars, coffee machines, and etc.

According to the Washington Post, there have been 61,998 seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11, totaling over 2.5 billion dollars. Half of the seizure were under $8,800. In many cases, the very police officers that take the money are the ones involved in the case. 

Civil asset Forfeitures need to stop. At the very least, they need to be stricter on officers and make it easier where the proof of evidence is on the officers, not the person trying to get their money back. Many people have lost money because of this, and many stop fighting because they’re spending more money on lawyers than they had taken away.