We read about some of the abuses of Eminent Domain because the cases may affect Mom and Pop types. We hear less about asset forfeiture. The general opinion is the victims are drug kingpins, and we are often willing to look the other way. Since the IRS revelation and the realization what an out of control government can do, I suggest we pay more attention to this practice. This study which looked at Rhode Island found that most of the cases were not drug related.
From the Institute for Justice:
The smallest state in the Union can rake in big money from asset forfeiture. Since 2003, law enforcement in Rhode Island has hauled in $15.7 million using the state’s asset forfeiture laws.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Police departments across Rhode Island have seized millions of dollars in cash, cars and other assets in recent years using a common law enforcement practice that doesn’t require a conviction for the individuals involved in the case.
All told, law enforcement officials throughout the state hauled in nearly $15.7 million from 3,786 incidents since 2003 using the state’s asset forfeiture law, according to a Target 12 review of data obtained through multiple public records requests.
Paul King, chief of police in neighboring Pawtucket, said his department used forfeiture money to purchase six brand new marked police units “that we just didn’t have in our budget to buy, and our fleet needed it.”
“These assets have been a godsend to the department,” King told Target 12.
But most of the cases were not targeting drug kingpins. Between 2003 and 2013, the average value of forfeited property was $4,142. Almost 40 percent of these cases affected property valued at less than $1,000. Only 12 out of almost 3,800 incidents involved property worth more than $100,000.
But for individuals who have had charges dropped or dismissed, getting money or property back isn’t easy. One has to go back to court and start a civil suit.
Last year, 22 police departments seized more than $1.3 million from 306 incidents. But fewer than half of these actually led to a conviction. In fact, under civil forfeiture, the government can take property from people never convicted of a crime, or even charged with one. Only a handful of states (including, most recently, Minnesota) actually require a criminal conviction to forfeit property.