The Charleston Gazette editorial looks at abuses of criminal forfeiture laws

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal and state forfeiture laws are designed to seize the homes, cars, boats, jewelry, aircraft, bank accounts and other lucrative assets of big-time criminals like druglords and stock swindlers — ill-gotten gains from crime. The laws work. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department confiscated $4.2 billion, part of which was refunded to victims.

However, other types of police forfeiture actions can hurt innocent people — such as grandparents whose home is taken because a grandson peddled pot in the driveway, or drivers whose cars and belongings are seized because they were carrying cash. Sometimes officers and prosecutors reap personal “bonuses” from this operation, dubbed “policing for profit.” Forfeiture proceeds boost small-town budgets. …


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