Through a procedure called civil asset forfeiture, local, state and federal law enforcement officials have the power to seize property and money if it’s suspected of being related to a crime. In many cases, though, the property owner is never charged with a crime, and a trend has emerged of local and state law enforcement using civil asset forfeiture to raise additional money.
The issue is gaining traction at the state level, as state legislatures have begun to tackle reforms. Additionally, following policy changes at the Department of Justice and the introduction of legislation called the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR), Congress is turning to address civil asset forfeiture.
Here’s what you need to know about civil asset forfeiture and what experts are saying Congress needs to do to protect the rights of innocent property owners.