Civil Seizures

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the last few days about civil asset seizures. This involves police often taking cars, money, and property found in connection with traffic stops and other arrests, which usually involve some narcotics.  For the last 25+ years, municipalities around the country have been on an “asset grab” of valuable items when people are arrested in connection to drug use and other criminal activity.

This means that local cops are making extra money taking the property of alleged criminals. If you are accused, the process of getting your stuff back is very complicated. It is subject to strict time deadlines.  If you do not do everything just right, you lose your property at a hearing, where the judge basically rubber stamps the action of the police.

It gets somewhat more interesting, because the police actually get to keep 60% of anything they can grab.  This creates a huge incentive for some towns to actually have an Asset Interdiction Division staffed by local cops, whose job it is to figure out a way to grab vehicles, money, and other items they find in the process of doing the job.

I have always had a moral issue with incentivizing the cops to basically steal.  It looks like the U.S. Supreme Court may have similar concerns.  They took an Indiana case under consideration, but they are expected to issue a decision in the next several months.

Want to know more? Here are articles from two different publications, giving a more in-depth view of the civil seizure process:

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