Civil Forfeiture

State and Federal Law enforcement agencies routinely use a procedure called civil forfeiture to steal and extort money from regular citizens. Whether it is forfeiting the home of the parent whose son was selling drugs or charging 25% of the blue book value of the car impounded in an OWI arrest before releasing the car from a tow yard, the government’s exploitation of civil forfeiture laws is becoming a major problem.

Despite the Sixth Amendment’s requirement that court proceedings be public, Government abuse of civil forfeiture has become so outrageous that law enforcement has taken to filing civil forfeiture actions under seal (keeping the court documents private) to avoid publically scrutiny. This is usually only permitted in rare cases, typically concerning national security or to protect the identity of a minor. These practices were recently condemned by the Federal Courts in Nevada: “Saying that this would offend the Constitution is an understatement. It is constitutionally abhorrent.” (http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/vegas-prosecutors-used-super-seal-hide-fortune-seized-gamblers)

The Sixth Amendment requirement that judicial proceedings be public was intended to allow the press and ordinary Americans to know what their Government was up to. Civil Forfeiture often circumvents the requirement of public oversight and allows for the theft of personal property from ordinary Americans by the Government to happen in secret.