Alcohol, concert tickets, exotic vacations, sports cars, private homes, drugs, and even prostitutes. These are just some of the things police officers around the country have been caught purchasing using money gained through civil forfeiture. According to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office, law enforcement in Tarrant County alone seized over 440 computers, 246 cars, and $3.5 million. Reports show almost a million dollars of this money was diverted into the salaries of the office’s 16 employees, which averages out to a $62,000 per employee.
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Law enforcement groups are able to do this through a thoroughly ignored process known as civil forfeiture. Using civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize people’s private property, auction it off, and use the money to fund their agency’s budgets. Property owners need not be convicted, or even charged with a crime to have their homes, cars, money, or other property taken from them by the government.
Researchers at the Institute For Justice have dubbed this practice “policing for profit” or “#YOLO for cops”; claiming that civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on American’s rights in recent history.
“Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but civil forfeiture turns that principle on its head. With civil forfeiture, your property is guilty until you prove it innocent,” reads an IJ brief.