A Stain on Our Identity 

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Civil forfeiture allows police to seize property and money they claim is related to a crime. In addition to the ludicrous nature of the state prosecuting money itself (as in the case of “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Twenty Eight Thousand Three Hundred Fifty Six Dollars Fifty Cents ($28,356.50) in United States Currency”), these seizures often benefit police departments and prosecutor’s offices directly. That creates a system that’s ripe for abuse, and one that’s often nigh impossible for citizens to navigate in attempting to get back what was improperly seized.

“It’s exactly what the framers of the Constitution were concerned about…a state coming in, depriving someone of their property and, really, you can’t do anything about it,” said Nora Demleitner, a professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law. “It’s very hard, procedurally, the way this is set up, to act against [the state].”

This a nationwide problem, but one that many state legislatures have slowly been working to improve. Sadly, my own state of Massachusetts currently has some of the worst laws in the nation, as WBUR ably covered.


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