Civil asset forfeiture: The reform issue that’s sweeping the nation

The issue of civil asset forfeiture is getting a lot of attention these days, and with good reason. This centuries-old law enforcement procedure is based on British laws that predate the American Revolution, and which do not reflect the principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Here’s how it works: If police or federal agents suspect that property has been involved in the commission of a crime, they can simply take it. No charges need be filed against the property owner, no trial must occur. In effect, the property itself is accused of a crime, and it’s up to the owner to prove its innocence if they ever wants to see it again.

Police primarily use this tool against drug dealers, and supporters of the program argue it is both necessary and effective at cracking down on drug crime. However, there are a number of problems with this analysis. First, regardless of your opinion on the drug war, the lack of due process is a concern to anyone who cares about the Constitution.