One of the things I find that absolutely stuns people when I give talks about drug policy reform is the totally corrupt system of civil asset forfeiture in this country, that allows the seizure of assets (from cash to cars to homes) without charging the owner with a crime and with the proceeds kept by the law enforcement agency seizing the property.
We need to continue to educate people about this corrupt practice that not only makes a mockery out of our justice system, but provides a profit incentive for law enforcement to lobby in favor of continued drug war.
Here are a couple recent articles on the subject.
From October in American Thinker (thanks, Richard): Asset Forfeiture and Perverse Incentives
Several reforms are badly need to reduce the problem. First, salaries and bonuses of public servants should be disconnected from asset seizures. This measure would remove some of the brazen incentivize for prosecutors and police to engage in questionable tactics.
Second, people facing asset seizures should be given additional legal rights. Those facing forfeiture should have the right to state legal representation. Property seizure should be an option only when the owner is convicted of a crime. Law-abiding property owners shouldnâ€™t have to look over their shoulders, in fear that opportunistic prosecutors or police departments have them in their sights.
Yesterday in the New York Times: Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize
â€œAt the grass-roots level â€” cities, counties â€” they continue to be interested, perhaps increasingly so, in supplementing their budgets by engaging in the type of seizures that weâ€™ve seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere,â€ said Lee McGrath, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that has mounted a legal and public relations assault on civil forfeiture.
Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety.
In the sessions, officials share tips on maximizing profits, defeating the objections of so-called â€œinnocent ownersâ€ who were not present when the suspected offense occurred, and keeping the proceeds in the hands of law enforcement and out of general fund budgets.