A shocking January report from Reason calculated that the total amount of money seized in asset forfeiture actions from US Attorney’s Offices last year was over $15 billion. Reason reported that “only a few US Attorney’s Offices have publicized their 2017 money collected,” but accounts from three states in particular thus far have exposed “staggering numbers.”
Below is what they found:
- The US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California collected over $65.3 million in criminal and civil actions and helped seize around $9.2 million in asset forfeiture actions.
- The Vermont US Attorney's Office collected or helped collect more than $160.6 million in civil and criminal actions and aided in seizing $212,691 in asset forfeiture actions.
- US prosecutors in Maine collected more than $2.7 million in criminal actions and $577,291 in civil actions, and they helped seize $915,194 in asset forfeiture actions.
While officials claim that they “strive… to safeguard taxpayer dollars,” Reason reported that much of the money these offices are collecting “came from fines and fees in civil cases,” not criminal cases. Moreover, while law enforcement claims to take the money to give back to taxpayers, these statistics show money is actually taken from US taxpayers for the use of the federal government.
On March 7th, The Hill reported that the latest annual forfeiture report for the state of Michigan “showed that more than 700 innocent people had their assets forfeited to law enforcement.” Jarett Skorup at the Mackinac Center wrote in The Hill that excessive abuses in asset forfeiture such as this is prompting a wave of states to take action and enact reforms. He wrote that Michigan may become the 15th state to enact legislation that requires a criminal conviction before the government can take ownership of property via civil asset forfeiture. Skorup noted that this “is a bipartisan movement” and “a refreshing change from our normally hyper-partisan policy debates.”