(Reason) More than 80 percent of federal seizures are never challenged in court, according to Smith. To supporters of forfeiture, this statistic is an indication of the owners’ guilt, but opponents argue it simply reflects the fact that in many cases the property was worth less than the legal costs of trying to get it back.
The average Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) property seizure in 1998 was worth about $25,000. In 2000 a Justice Department source told the PBS series Frontline that this figure was also the cutoff under which most forfeiture attorneys advised clients that their cases wouldn’t be worth pursuing. So a law aimed at denying drug kingpins their ill-gotten millions ended up affecting mostly those with so little loot it didn’t even make sense to hire an attorney to win it back.
Forfeiture [has] been sending money to police departments and prosecutors’ offices for 16 years, so even in the few states that passed laws to make the process more fair, officials found ways around them. Once the authorities have a license to steal, it turns out to be very difficult to revoke.
A very good look at the abhorrent mutation of American law known as Civil Asset Forfeiture. You want to know why marijuana remains illegal and law enforcement fights tooth and nail to maintain prohibition? Read this article. You’ve got to keep illegal the drug that (a) is very popular so (b) you have plenty of candidates for forfeiture that (c) aren’t so burned out by the drug that they (d) still have enough money and stuff to seize but (e) not rich enough to fight a lengthy case against the government.