Congratulations to the Institute for Justice for an important victory against the abuse of civil asset forfeiture:
Today, the Institute for Justice dismantled one of the nation’s largest and most egregious civil forfeiture programs. For decades, Philadelphia’s forfeiture machine terrorized its citizens: throwing them out of their homes without notice, seizing their cars and other property, and forcing victims to navigate a rigged kangaroo court system to have any chance of getting their property back. And the property and money forfeited was then given to the very officials who were supposed to be fairly enforcing the law.After four long years of litigation, IJ cemented a victory for all Philadelphians this morning with two binding consent decrees in which city officials agreed to reforms that:1. Sharply limit when Philadelphia law enforcement can forfeit property;2. Prevent law enforcement from keeping what they seize;3. Establish robust protections for the due process rights of citizens; and4. Create a $3 million fund to compensate innocent people who were ensnared by the city’s abusive system.
My paper, To Serve and Collect (with Makowsky and Stratmann) suggests that this victory will not only reduce civil asset forfeiture it will also change police behavior and decision-making, altering the number, type, and racial composition of arrests.