Law enforcement can not only seize drugs, but also money during a drug bust. Civil forfeiture laws were passed to hit drug lords where it hurts most; in their pocketbooks.
The trouble, according to ACLU Nebraska, is some innocent people have had money and property seized.
ACLU Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller says some states prohibit a seizure unless the person has been convicted of a crime.
“There you would have the beyond a reasonable doubt knowledge that the person was, in fact, guilty of a crime. Then, it would be appropriate to take their property,” Miller tells reporters during a conference call.
Miller has other suggestions to reduce the chance of abuse.
She says the financial incentive needs to be removed. Most law enforcement benefit from the seizures, giving them plenty of motivation to take property. Miller says the money could go to a general fund or to the schools.
Miller also says there needs to be transparency about how the money is spent.
“There has been well documented cases of abuse,” according to Miller. “The most notable one cited in the report where one law enforcement agency in Texas bought a margarita machine with the forfeiture money they seized, because there was no oversight on how the money was used.”
A final suggestion is to abolish civil forfeitures altogether.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]