When law enforcement agencies believe you gained possession over certain assets through illicit or illegal means, they may take possession of those assets. This is part of a controversial process known as asset forfeiture. Authorities began using asset forfeiture to punish offenders, discourage criminal activity and breakdown large criminal enterprises, among other reasons. However, allegations of misuse have long plagued many law enforcement agencies and organizations.
How does asset forfeiture work, and how do some law enforcement agencies abuse it?
How asset forfeiture works
Forfeiture gives authorities the ability to seize and then either keep or sell assets and property they believe was part of a criminal offense. In some cases, you can encounter asset forfeiture even when authorities never place you under arrest or convict you of an offense. Asset forfeiture might involve you losing your cash, vehicles or even your home permanently.
Once you lose these assets, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to regain possession of them. In some cases, the expense involved in recovering seized assets outweighs the actual value of the assets seized.
How some agencies abuse asset forfeiture
Many law enforcement agencies have faced allegations of abusing asset forfeiture rules and using them for their own gain. Flawed federal and state laws create loopholes some agencies use to seize assets for profit, rather than as part of an effort to reduce crime and protect the public.
The value of property seized in asset forfeiture continues to grow each year, leading many to issue calls for reform.