Is Asset Forfeiture taxation?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 4-20-11

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 4-20-11.

Question of the Week: Is Asset Forfeiture taxation?

According to the U.S. Justice Department,

“Civil forfeiture is a proceeding brought against the property rather than against the person who committed the offense. Civil forfeiture does not require either criminal charges against the owner of the property or a criminal conviction.”

“…forfeiture can be used to seize and forfeit the following:
• any amount of currency;
• personal property valued at $500,000 or less, including cars, guns, and boats;
• hauling conveyances of unlimited value.

Real property cannot be forfeited administratively.”

In 2009, U.S. Attorneys seized over one billion dollars in assets, roughly four times more than in 1989. During that 21 year span, the value of forfeited assets totaled 11 billion dollars, five billion short of the 2011 federal drug control budget.

The Justice Department readily admits that,

“… civil forfeiture expanded greatly during the early 1980s as governments at all levels stepped up the war on drugs.”

The department goes on to claim,

“… asset forfeiture can assist in the budgeting realm by helping to offset the costs associated with fighting crime. Doing what it takes to undermine the illicit drug trade is expensive and time-consuming. Forfeiture can help agencies target these difficult problems, sometimes without the need to seek additional outside resources to offset their costs.”

In its 2010 report, the Institute for Justice called asset forfeiture

“… legal fiction that enables law enforcement to take legal action against inanimate objects for participation in alleged criminal activity, regardless of whether the property owner is guilty or innocent—or even whether the owner is charged with a crime.”

I have to ask, is asset forfeiture for merely alleged drug crimes taxation without representation?

These facts and others like them can be found in the Asset Forfeiture Chapter of Drug War Facts at