Kibbe, Gastanaga and Leonard: Time to fix justice system

The "presumption of innocence" is a cornerstone of the American justice system. But for many Virginians, it’s little more than American fiction.

Current law permits law enforcement to seize personal property based on the mere suspicion that an individual – or an item in question – has been involved in criminal activity. Flipping the old adage "innocent until proven guilty" on its head, a property owner – often never charged, let alone convicted of a crime – must prove the innocence of the property if he has any hope of getting it back.

The costs of this current system are really high for people across Virginia.

Between 2008 and 2014, law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth seized more than $57 million worth of property – everything from cars to cash to homes – through a practice known as civil asset forfeiture.

Matt Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks and author of "Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff." Claire Guthrie Gastañaga is executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. Christine Leonard is executive director of the Coalition for Public Safety, which advocates reform of the criminal justice system.