Shortly after unveiling reforms to civil forfeiture procedures in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the county. The lawsuit argues that the county has been inappropriately disposing of vehicles seized using civil asset forfeiture.
Civil asset forfeiture is the legal process where law enforcement may take possession of an individual’s property if that property is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, neither a criminal conviction nor even criminal charges are required in order for property to be seized. In New York, 60 percent of the proceeds from civil asset forfeitures go to law enforcement. There is little oversight on how this money is spent. This has led to criticisms from across the political spectrum that law enforcement has an incentive to seize property.