Thursday, November 13, 2014

Asset forfeiture: libertarian issue mainstreamed

Asset forfeiture, drug legalization, and the mainstreaming of libertarian ideas - The Washington Post - Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy:

October 27, 2014 - "Sunday’s New York Times article on the dangers of asset forfeiture abuse follows a major multi-part series on the same subject in the Washington Post. Last year, the liberal New Yorker also published a major article on the issue.

"As both the Times and the Post emphasize, the present asset forfeiture system in many states allows law enforcement agencies to seize property even if the owner has not been convicted or even charged with any property. Often, the police then get to keep the proceeds from the seizures for themselves, creating a perverse incentive to seize as much property as possible, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the owners. In many cases, as the Post notes, owners have little or no opportunity to reclaim their property because the procedures are involved are difficult and time-consuming, and often too expensive for poor and lower-middle class property owners to afford.

"As in the case of drug legalization, asset forfeiture reform is a cause long-championed by libertarians, which has recently hit the mainstream. The Institute for Justice, a prominent libertarian public interest law firm, has highlighted the issue for years, ans is currently spearheading both legal and legislative challenges to the system. Similarly, libertarians have for decades advocated abolishing the War on Drugs.... only recently has this idea begun to attract widespread mainstream public and elite support.

"Obviously, the two issues are integrally linked. As the Post series notes, the War on Drugs is one of the leading causes of asset forfeiture abuse. The Post article correctly emphasizes that much of the seized property is taken as a result of law enforcement operations undertaken as part of the War on Drugs. The threat that the War on Drugs poses to the property rights of innocent people is yet another reason for conservatives, among others, to rethink their traditional support for it."

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