RELEASE: Reform Necessary to End Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses That Disproportionately Affect Low-Income Individuals and Communities of Color, Says New CAP Report

Washington, D.C. — Civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize property from individuals who have not been charged with a crime, was established as a tool to dismantle criminal organizations; over the last 30 years, however, the practice has been called into question by lawmakers and thought leaders across the political spectrum.

Today, the Center for American Progress released a report highlighting how civil asset forfeiture disproportionately impacts poor communities and communities of color, and risk exacerbating poverty and racial inequality in the United States. As bipartisan lawmakers in Congress work together to pass federal reforms, CAP’s new report offers steps that state policymakers can take to prevent civil asset forfeiture abuses from pushing already struggling families and communities into or deeper into poverty.

“Losing a home, vehicle, or needed financial resources to forfeiture can have devastating short- and long-term consequences for already struggling individuals and families, and risks undercutting the government’s own efforts to combat poverty and build ladders of opportunity,” said Rebecca Vallas, Managing Director of the Poverty to Prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, and lead author of the report.

The following recommendations are included in CAP’s report:

  • Require a conviction before forfeiting property and place the burden of proof on the government
  • Remove the profit motive for law enforcement to seize property
  • End petty cash seizures
  • Abolish cash bonds
  • Ensure access to legal representation
  • Improve data collection

“Civil asset forfeiture reform is urgently needed to protect vulnerable communities from the abusive practices that impact Americans of every race and economic status, but hit low-income individuals and communities of color hardest,” said Todd A. Cox, Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the Center for American Progress, and co-author of the report. “We must ensure that justice is not meted out based on income.”

For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya S. Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.

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