Civil Forfeiture Makes Bad Policy Worse | Ohio Personal Injury Attorneys

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cashWar on Drugs: Civil Forfeiture

Sarah Stillman of the New Yorker wrote a very thought provoking piece on the use and abuse of the civil forfeiture process for the New Yorker recently. (view here) I have been intrigued by the policy surrounding the “war on drugs” and the tangential effects for some time now. It has always been rather readily apparent to be that despite the unreasonable cost associated with the war on drugs (one trillion dollars; highest incarceration rate in the world) civil forfeiture provides an incentive for local police departments to continue to wage this war. Here’s why. In short, civil forfeiture provisions allow police to seize property through a civil (as opposed to criminal process) by filing a suit against the piece of property (think United States v. 2013 Cadillac). The catch is, depending on the state, property does not enjoy the same rights as a human. (i.e. right to counsel, right to have the state prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt). As a result, the end game is that police departments become heavily incentivized (and often reliant) on lenient civil forfeitures relating to drugs. In turn, it quickly becomes less economically desirable to solve violent crimes where there is no potential to get, say, a new drone for the department. This rather perverse incentive scheme is at least one reason why a drug policy that has incarcerated millions, often along strict racial lines and at exorbitant cost to the United States Taxpayers, perpetuates to this day. Read more here.

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