Civil asset forfeiture laws vary by state, so depending on where you live, you might not need to worry about it at all. However, with federal laws possibly becoming more far-reaching and strict in the near future, it’s good to know what you’re up against. To start the new year, here are a some facts about civil asset forfeiture that might be surprising to you.
When it comes to civil asset forfeiture, you don’t have to be charged with a crime in order for your property to be seized. Depending on the circumstances, your property can slip away when you least expect it.
That’s exactly what happened to Gerardo Serrano as he crossed the U.S. border into Mexico late in 2015, when his truck was seized without any charges being brought against him.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for the creation of a new unit in the Justice Department to oversee federal asset forfeiture policies in a memo sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod J Rosenstein yesterday.
This recent action by Sessions comes just a few months after his announcement in July that the Department of Justice would be rolling back a series of Obama-era curbs on civil asset forfeiture.
Civil asset forfeiture laws were originally intended as a way to fight drug trafficking. The laws originated and grew in the 1970s and 1980s as law enforcement agencies lacked a way to diminish the operations of resilient drug trafficking operations.
But the laws have also created for law enforcement agencies a lucrative stream of revenue, and the numbers show just how common civil forfeiture has become in the United States.