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Study examines asset forfeiture laws, impact on crime

People in New York who are accused of drug trafficking may have some of their property seized, but according to a study by the Institute for Justice, there is no correlation between the proceeds law enforcement receives from forfeiture and a drop in drug use or a rise in solved crimes. The study also found that when economic conditions worsened, forfeitures increased, and it suggested that economic gain and not crime reduction is behind law enforcement’s use of the law.

The study’s author said there were civil liberties concerns around forfeiture. Under forfeiture laws, law enforcement is permitted to seize property, including homes, cars and cash. The property may be forfeit even if the owner is never charged or convicted, with profits split between law enforcement and prosecution.

Civil asset forfeiture used to be a relatively rare practice. The war on drugs in the 1980s led to increased use. Local, state and federal law enforcement have argued that dropping the practice would interfere with investigating and prosecuting drug crimes. Civil liberties organizations and advocacy groups have long opposed the laws, saying innocent property owners get too little protection. Studies and investigations have found that rather than seizing property from cartels, the laws are often used to take small amounts of cash and other property from ordinary individuals.

Individuals who are facing charges for drug-related crimes or any other type of crime may want to contact an attorney about an approach to defense. People have a right to an attorney when they are taken into custody. An attorney may take a number of different approaches to a person’s defense depending on the specifics of the case. For example, the attorney might look into whether the evidence was obtained legally and if the client’s rights were protected during detention.