The one area everyone on the political spectrum agrees on? Civil asset forfeiture sucks.

On Tuesday, the FBI tweeted out a video of adorable puppies, but it used those puppies to justify civil asset forfeiture laws.

Literally: If you hate civil asset forfeiture, you hate puppies. You don’t hate puppies, do you!?

Give me a break. You mean the FBI has no other resources or ways to rescue and rehabilitate these poor dogs?

Civil forfeiture remains a controversial issue in America since it’s “a process by which the government can take and sell your property without ever convicting, or even charging, you with a crime.” The procedures are civil, which means defendants do not receive the same protections given to criminal defendants.

Even if you’re found not guilty of a crime, it does not mean the government will give you back your property.

Back in 2017, the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions expanded its civil asset forfeiture program even in states that banned the practice. Like the FBI, Sessions stressed that these funds that allegedly “were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives.”

Sessions allowed local authorities to bypass state laws by using a practice called “adoption,” which means those authorities can give “seized assets to the federal government instead of returning them to their owners.”

States and cities have not given in as many still ban the practice or make major reforms. In September 2018, Philadelphia reformed its atrocious civil asset forfeiture laws, which led to legalized theft of belongings to 23,000 citizens. It came after the city settled a lawsuit by a family after authorities seized their home because their son tried to sell $40 worth of drugs to a cop. The lawsuit led the city to pay back $3 million to its victims.

A couple in Alabama saw their lives turned upside down due to civil asset forfeiture over $50 of weed:

As Reason reported last week, the Almonds filed a federal civil rights lawsuit earlier this year against the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department, alleging that in January of 2018, the sheriff’s narcotics unit busted down their door, threw a flashbang grenade at Greg Almond’s feet, detained the couple at gunpoint, and ransacked their house.

The search only turned up $50 or less of marijuana, which the Almonds’ adult son tried in vain to claim as his, and a single sleeping pill outside of a prescription bottle with Greg’s name on it. The Almonds were arrested and charged with misdemeanor drug possession for personal use. However, deputies also seized roughly $8,000 in cash, along with dozens of firearms and other valuables, using civil asset forfeiture, a practice that allows police to seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity.

A year later, in April 2019, a judge dismissed the misdemeanor drug charges against them. The judge also ordered the government to give the couple back their home.

Reason‘s C.J. Ciaramella covers asset forfeiture. Earlier this month he wrote about a study that proved funds from asset forfeiture does not have much of an impact on solving crimes (emphasis mine):

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states, released the study today. It examined a decade’s worth of asset forfeiture data from the Justice Department’s equitable sharing program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in forfeiture revenues to state and local police agencies, and found that more forfeiture proceeds did not result in more solved crimes or less drug use.

The study also found that asset forfeiture activity increased in times of local economic stress. For example, the study reported that a 1 percent increase in local unemployment “was associated with a statistically significant 9 percentage point increase in seizures of property for forfeiture.”

The study’s author, Dr. Brian Kelly, an associate professor of economics at Seattle University, says the results undercut law enforcement’s claim that asset forfeiture funding helps drive down crime.

“These results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that forfeiture’s value in crime fighting is exaggerated and that police do use forfeiture to raise revenue,” Kelly said in a press release. “Given this evidence and the serious civil liberties concerns raised by forfeiture, forfeiture proponents should bear the burden of proof when opposing reforms that would keep police focused on fighting crime, not raising revenue.”

Another survey conducted in four Texas counties “found that half of the cash seizures were for less than $3,000, and 20 percent of the cases were not accompanied by criminal charges.”

Civil asset forfeiture is legalized theft. The FBI should find another way to raise funds to help out the puppies.


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