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Articles Tagged with Civil Asset Forfeiture

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justice-2060093_1920-300x200A U.S. Supreme Court ruling announced on February 19 has law enforcement agencies in Florida questioning whether they need to change how they seize people’s cash, cars, and homes using a practice known as civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture is a nationwide practice that allows authorities to seize property—vehicles, cash, houses, electronics, and the like—that are suspected of being connected to a crime. The Supreme Court’s ruling struck at the heart of the practice, which is derisively known as “policing for profit,” because police often use it to seize assets even if the owner isn’t charged with a crime.

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pexels-photo-804463-300x200A Tampa-based trucking company has filed a lawsuit after federal authorities purportedly seized more than $181,000 in cash from an employee who was flying to Cleveland to buy new trucks for their fleet.

FGL Transport, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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pexels-photo-534204-300x167The Institute of Justice has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Wayne County, Michigan, alleging that county police seize vehicles from residents in Detroit simply because they have driven in or out of high-crime areas.

The lead plaintiff in the case is Melisa Ingram of Detroit. Police seized her vehicle twice after accusing her of committing crimes without ever formally charging her. Ingram had to pay thousands of dollars to get her vehicle back to prevent the county prosecutor from keeping it under civil asset forfeiture laws.

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person-holding-fountain-pen-753695-288x300The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution guards American citizens against illegal search and seizure of property. But when a law enforcement official does initially have reasonable cause, what happens to the property (including cash) after it is determined no crime was committed after all?

 

This is at the heart of the issue with civil asset forfeiture. And it is being addressed in many states, including New Jersey. As this blog recently covered, in January 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (S1963) requiring disclosure and transparency requirements for civil asset forfeiture. New Jersey joins a number of states that have moved in this direction at the request of several citizens’ watchdog groups, including the ACLU-NJ and Americans for Prosperity and the AFP Foundation.

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photo-of-person-holding-black-pen-959816-300x200New Jersey has joined sixteen other states that are moving toward more transparency in the seizure of property in civil cases, especially if there is no conviction. Spearheaded by the Institute for Justice beginning in 2014, the End Forfeiture initiative was launched, which focuses on reforming or ending civil forfeiture laws nationwide.

 

Civil forfeiture allows cash, cars, homes, and other property suspected of involvement in criminal activity to be seized by the government. However, the property owner doesn’t have to be charged or convicted of a crime to lose that property permanently. Some say this gives law enforcement agencies an incentive to “police for profit,” seizing and keeping as much property as they can in order to fund these programs. This is where the Institute of Justice and the ACLU-NJ have stepped in. 

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