The loss of property is considered as a reasonable punishment. This is because it aims to deprive criminals of the instrumentalities of the crime hence, disrupting their criminal activities. Asset forfeiture constitutes seizing instrumentalities obtained through crime, those used to commit a crime then or in the near future. These confiscated assets are used to fund equipment, training, and programs that the state might be otherwise unable to afford. Theoretically, this technique seems to be effective. However, when it comes to its practicality, individuals usually have their property seized even when they have not been charged with a crime, especially in civil forfeitures.
In the civil context, the property is seized only when it was used in a crime. However, in the criminal context, the asset is taken when the owner has been charged with a crime. Over the recent decades, the amount of forfeiture revenue has continuously been in the increase (Sheth, 2014). Nevertheless, there are several underlying issues associated with the civil forfeiture process. The civil forfeiture involves the seizing of a person’s property and is beyond the compass of judicial oversight, thus avoiding the Constitution and Due Process Clause. This means that law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors are legally allowed to retain the seized proceeds. As a result, they are known to have a perverse incentive first to take property and ask questions later. More so, if a suspect is not charged or convicted of a crime, it is a tedious process for the individual to retrieve his or her property (Smith, 2018).
Property is one of the most priced assets a nation can have, yet it is subject to attack by the modern civil forfeiture laws. The application of civil forfeiture has been shifted such that it majorly focusses on the pursuit of property and profit instead of its original intent. It has therefore led to a systemic abuse as the innocent property owners lack procedural safeguards. It is vital for the government to scrutinize the unjust deprivations of assets.
- Sheth, D. (2014). Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Forfeiture Laws. Criminal Law and Procedure, 14 (3), 24 -28.
- Smith, N. (2018). Government Calls It Forfeiture, But It’s Theft. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bloomerang.com/amp/view/articles/2018-06-21/government-needs-a-good-reason-for-civil-asset-forfeiture