When the Cops Seize Your Stuff: Does Civil Asset Forfeiture Really Go too Far?

cvlastfrftrOklahoma has been in the news lately over law enforcement seizing assets from people who were never eventually charged with a crime. In 12 counties, authorities seized $4 million in cash from 114 of these people over a five-year span. The ACLU claims this is evidence of abuse, but what is really going on?

Seizing property without charging someone with a crime is known as “civil forfeiture,” and it is perfectly legal and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the cases where cash is seized, most of the incidents involve law enforcement pulling drivers over who they believe are trafficking narcotics, and discovering large amounts of cash in the vehicle. If the officer believes the person obtained the cash from illegal activity, he will seize it. The property is held until a judge can make a ruling on whether the seizure was lawful.

The reason these laws are in place is to prevent the person from using the large amount of cash (or property) to commit more crimes, such as buying and selling more drugs. The ACLU explains that forfeiture “was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources.” Other types of property Oklahoma law enforcement has seized include vehicles, firearms, iPhones and a computer. The vast majority of those who were eventually charged criminally were for drug dealing related crimes (many were pled down to lesser offenses like drug possession).

Read the rest of the article at The Stream

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