Civil Forfeiture Turns Cops into Robbers

The Federal Lawsuit brought by the Institute For Justice is a good thing, but the only way to really end it is for Congress to change the law. Civil forfeiture may appeal to some as a sin tax on criminality, but too many entirely innocent people are having their property literally stolen from them. The blame for this state of affairs is none other than conservative former Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist who wrote the majority 5-4 opinion in Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442 (1996). See more on that case here and here.

The Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution say that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law. Civil forfeiture laws present a clear violation of both the letter and spirit of due process under law. Moreover, civil forfeiture offers too much temptation for police, prosecutors, and politicians and bureaucrats of all stripes to engage in what is essentially legalized theft and corrupt government. Civil forfeiture fosters corruption in government by giving officials excess money with which to do mischief.

The Supreme Court should overturn the Bennis decision. Getting rid of civil forfeiture will not mean criminals will get to keep the spoils of their crimes nor the property used as a means to crime because criminal forfeiture will remain as a tool for law enforcement. Getting rid of civil forfeiture will only mean that law enforcement will be forced to operate under the constraints of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights which guarantees all citizens due process of law.