Asset forfeiture reforms in D.C.

As Forbes discusses, the D.C. city council has just passed a law to combat the abuses associated with civil asset forfeiture, the law enforcement practice of taking people's money or property and asking questions (such as whether they had the authority to do it) later.

The Washington Post summarizes what asset forfeiture is:

Civil forfeiture laws permit local and state police to take cash, cars, homes and other property from people suspected of involvement in drug trafficking or other wrongdoing without proving a crime has occurred. Police can make seizures under state or federal laws.

In practice, as this in-depth New Yorker article chronicles, forfeitures can be unjustified, leave victims stranded, and put the burden on innocent owners to recover their money or property. And who benefits? Often the very law enforcement agency taking the property.

To combat these abuses, the D.C. law will "raise the threshold of proof required for a forfeiture, bolster the rights of individuals whose property has been taken and require that proceeds from seizures under federal law go into the city general fund, rather than directly to the police department." The Post's coverage is here.



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