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Study: Asset forfeiture does not help fight crime

Despite the claims of law enforcement associations, one study indicates that civil asset forfeiture has little impact on solving or reducing crime in Texas and across the country. Civil asset forfeiture allows police departments to seize property that they suspect of being connected in some way to criminal activity. According to the report by the Institute of Justice, there was no link between the amount of forfeiture funds received by state and local law enforcement agencies and drug use rates or the percentage of cases solved.

In addition, the researchers indicated that asset forfeiture may be used in some cases to support law enforcement revenues. They said that they saw a trend of increased forfeiture in areas suffering from economic difficulties. According to the study, a 1% increase in unemployment was correlated with a 9% increase in local forfeiture rates. Experts consulted by the institute said that the study's results backed up assertions that asset forfeiture does little to fight crime and instead primarily raises revenue for police agencies. The use of forfeiture laws shot up dramatically as the war on drugs escalated.

Unlike other types of criminal penalties, people do not actually have to be charged with drug offenses or other crimes for the police to seize property such as cars, homes or cash. The proceeds are often distributed between prosecutor's offices and police departments. Advocacy groups have been escalating their efforts to put an end to civil forfeiture and provide greater protections for innocent property owners.

Asset forfeiture can have a devastating effect on people in Texas. In many cases, sums of money are seized from everyday people with little to spare. People facing civil forfeiture for drug charges can consult with a criminal defense attorney about options to protect their rights.

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