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No question about it: the public condemns this law enforcement tool

| Feb 22, 2021 | Criminal Defense

They keep doing it, and the general public – both nationally and unquestionably across Colorado – continues to speak harshly against the practice.

And in a stridently persistent way driven by perceived injustice targeting individuals who are often victims rather than wrongdoers. One authoritative Colorado legal source duly cites the “oft-stated complaint levied by legions of Americans from across a broad spectrum against a common police practice they roundly condemn.”

The subject of their ire: so-called “civil asset forfeiture,” which the above-cited overview stresses amounts to “a money grab and little more” in the minds of millions of Americans.

What is asset forfeiture, and why is it controversial?

Imagine if you woke up one morning to find your bank account depleted and police officers surrounding a tow truck in the process of hauling away your new car.

Fast forward: You are never convicted of any criminal charge entitling law enforcers to confiscate your property. In fact, it might well be the case that you were never arrested at all.

The bottom line, though: The police still have your cash and vehicle, with all your attempts to reclaim your assets being staunchly resisted.

That spells the essence of asset forfeiture for many individuals and families across the country who have personally been targeted by that potent government takings tool.

Moreover, it explains the public’s ire. A recent national media piece notes critics’ dim view of civil asset forfeiture. They condemn a practice that “demolishes due process and undermines property rights, giving cops a license to steal from innocent people who often lack the resources to resist.”

What law enforcers argue as the merits of asset forfeiture

Criminal law authorities don’t apologize for their confiscations alleged as lawful pursuant to asset forfeiture. In fact, they frequently laud the practice, stressing that it promotes these important aims:

  • Stops dangerous drug kingpins in their tracks by dissipating their illegally garnered assets
  • Eliminates resources otherwise used to make and distribute drugs like heroin and cocaine
  • Puts a dent in America’s addiction problem
  • Supplies revenues that go toward further police enforcement and augment strained law enforcement budgets

Program proponents argue that those bulleted pluses yield a collective upside that should reasonably render asset forfeiture immune from criticism.

The critics say otherwise: Alleged wrongs tied to forfeiture

A broad-based camp of asset forfeiture naysayers points to multiple wrongs stemming from police actions employing the takings tool. Here are two key criticisms that are notably supported by vetted research findings:

  • Evidence that forfeiture is such an attractive asset procurer for police agencies that it leads to diminished emphasis on pursuing violent crime in lieu of a focus on drug offenses (no salutary effect in fighting predatory crime)
  • Evidence that law enforcers seizing assets are “driven by financial incentives rather than by public safety concerns”

Civil asset forfeiture suffers unrelenting public criticism. That will undoubtedly continue to be the case, with anti-enforcement sentiments likely to further escalate in the future.

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