Every year in the United States, federal and state law enforcement agencies seize millions of dollars in cash and prizes (sorry, I couldn’t resist) from civilians during traffic stops and drug raids.
The act of seizing said money and belongings can be employed legally simply by asserting that the agents/officers involved believe the money or merchandise is connected to some illegal activity, and in some cases these actions take place without anyone ever being criminally charged.
Under federal law and the laws that are currently on the books in a good number of states, law enforcement agencies are at liberty to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property they seize.
The morning briefing at the local cop shop: “Let’s hit those streets and bust some folks, guys! We’ve got new cruisers and military-style weaponry to buy!”
In countless jurisdictions, the seized cash and prizes can be utilized to pay for salaries, advanced equipment (they have to stay militarized you know) and additional perks (doughnuts, department picnics, new softball jerseys, etc.).
When salaries and picnics are on the line, officers have an extra encouragement to amplify said seizures, which is evident by a boost in how often they go down and the sheer size of such events in recent years.
Unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture practices are often directly related with racial profiling and unduly impact low-income African-American and/or Hispanic people who the police determine to be suspect.
In addition, those ensnared by these unjust actions are faced with a costly challenge when attempting to get one’s property back.
In other words: Good luck!
Check out the following video clip of two members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) explaining the injustice that is civil asset forfeiture: