POLITICS

Victims of civil asset forfeiture might get more due process

Until last year, most Americans probably had never heard of civil asset forfeiture, but it's a big problem that allows law enforcement to seize hundreds of millions of dollars from citizens a year.

The issue has brought together groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Heritage Foundation (full disclosure: my former employer). Media outlets on the left like Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post scorn the process as much as media outlets on the right like the Daily Caller and the Federalist.

Civil forfeiture is a legal tool used by law enforcement to seize property they claim has been used in criminal activity. Essentially, the property is accused of the crime, because the owner doesn't even have to be guilty of (or even charged with) a crime. "This means that police can seize your car, home, money, or valuables without ever having to charge you with a crime," writes Heritage.

The ACLU adds that civil forfeiture was "originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources." But today, thanks to flawed laws and dwindling police budgets, the practice is used for profit.

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