In most of the United States, police can seize your property without charging or convicting you of a crime.
It’s called civil asset forfeiture. If it doesn’t sound fair to you, you’re not alone.
But thanks to a bipartisan coalition of grassroots volunteers across the country, lawmakers in at least 15 states are weighing legislation to do away with the practice.
Under civil asset forfeiture, police can and have seized cash, cars and even houses from people who ultimately are found innocent — and pocketed the proceeds. Many police departments depend on such seizures to bolster their budgets, and have fought tooth and nail to defend the practice despite the public outcry. Yet the tide is beginning to turn. In a sea change of public opinion that would have seemed impossible even a decade ago, people of all political stripes are beginning to recognize that there are some serious concerns with this practice — and lawmakers are taking note.