Civil Asset Forfeiture
Every year, federal and state law enforcement agents seize millions of dollars from civilians during traffic stops, simply by asserting that they believe the money is connected to some illegal activity and without ever pursuing criminal charges. Under federal law and the laws of most states, they are entitled to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property they seize.
In many jurisdictions, the money can go to pay for salaries, advanced equipment and other perks. When salaries and perks are on the line, officers have a strong incentive to increase the seizures, as evidenced by an increase in the regularity and size of such seizures in recent years. Asset forfeiture practices often go hand-in-hand with racial profiling and disproportionately impact low-income African-American or Hispanic people who the police decide look suspicious and for whom the arcane process of trying to get one’s property back is an expensive challenge. ACLU believes that such routine “civil asset forfeiture” puts our civil liberties and property rights under assault, and calls for reform of state and federal civil asset forfeiture laws.
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Morrow v. Tenaha: Police in an East Texas city will no longer enrich their coffers by seizing assets from innocent Black and Latino drivers and threatening them with baseless criminal charges, under a settlement reached with the ACLU.