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honda-2453746_1920-300x225The American Honda Finance Corporation has filed a lawsuit against the city of Revere, Massachusetts, alleging its constitutional rights were violated in 2016 when the Revere Police Department seized a Honda Civic using civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture is the legal procedure whereby law enforcement agencies may take possession of property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, neither a criminal conviction nor even criminal charges are needed before property is taken. While there are few restrictions or oversight on the procedure in most of the country, Massachusetts is one of only two states—the other being North Dakota—to earn an F grade from the libertarian Institute for Justice for its civil asset forfeiture laws.
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adventure-asphalt-california-533671-300x200In December 2017, Zeke Flatten was pulled over while driving on Highway 101 in California. He was traveling south through Humboldt County and was stopped a little way north of the Mendocino County line. Zeke was not speeding, nor breaking any other traffic laws

At first, the officers did not identify which law enforcement department they worked for. They did not wear departmental badges, nor did they have name tags. They had pulled him over in an unmarked, black Police Interceptor.

As Zeke later said, “At this point, I really felt something was wrong.” Zeke, a resident of Texas, was traveling in a rental car. He showed the officers the car rental agreement and his driver’s license.
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A possible financial scandal is emerging in Michigan, where state officials have been asked to investigate the use of civil asset forfeiture funds in Macomb County. On Monday, Macomb County Treasurer Lawrence Rocca wrote to state officials, saying the review was necessary because of discoveries made during a recent audit of the finances of Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

The audit, which was conducted by Plante Moran LLC, showed the county prosecutor was using four secret bank accounts with a combined total of $239,581 in assets as of Aug 21. These accounts were not listed on the county’s ledger. The funds in these accounts came from the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture.
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This spring, lawmakers in Alabama looked set to reform civil asset forfeiture. However, even though politicians and interest groups across the political spectrum supported reform, the reforms failed.

The libertarian Institute for Justice rates Alabama’s current civil asset forfeiture laws as “among the worst in the nation.” Civil asset forfeiture is the process where law enforcement can seize an individual’s property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, a criminal conviction is not required before property is seized. In Alabama, profits from civil asset forfeiture are used to fund law enforcement. This has led to accusations of abuse and “policing for profit.”
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