On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Constitution limits law enforcement’s ability to seize and keep private property believed to be connected to crimes. The completely legal practice is called civil asset forfeiture. It lets cops take people’s cash, cars, homes and anything else they say was involved in criminal activity. Police don’t have to prove the property was used in a crime. They don’t even have to convict the suspect who it belonged to. They can basically just take it. But after Wednesday’s unanimous 9-0 decision, the victims of civil asset forfeiture will at least have a better chance of getting their property back in court.
Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Excessive Fines Are Unconstitutional
Since its inception in the mid-1980s, federal state and local law enforcement agencies have taken more than $29 billion—that we know about— in cash and property through civil forfeitures. The actual figure could be much higher. According to the Institute for Justice, which reports on the endemic abuse of civil forfeiture in U.S. policing, law enforcement barely keep records of all the stuff they’re taking from people. They also don’t keep very good track of what they do with it