End Asset Forfeiture

Let's be clear about what civil asset forfeiture is not:


  • It's not confiscation of contraband or illegal goods
  • It's not property that has been withheld as evidence during a criminal investigation.
  • It's not a fine or restitution imposed on someone duly convicted of a crime

Civil asset forfeiture instead refers to legal property or cash owned by individuals not charged with any crime, which is nevertheless seized by law enforcement agents who merely suspect it was used in a crime.


  • If tens of thousands of dollars in cash are found in a person's home, it is automatically suspected of having been used in drug dealing, because no "normal" person would have that much cash lying around. "Odd or eccentric people", who distrust banks and keep their savings at home, are at risk.
  • If trace amounts of marijuana are found in a vehicle, the vehicle may be seized, even if the owner was unaware that any drugs were transported in the vehicle.

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), was intended to correct some of the worst abuses. (More information on the history of Civil Asset Forfeiture and CAFRA are found on our Background page.) But abuses and outrages continue . . .


Civil asset forfeiture can't be "fixed" because its very essence breeds conflict-of-interest.


Unfortunately, federal courts have used twisted logic to uphold civil asset forfeitures. They have contended that since the property itself is condemned, and not its owner, norms like "innocent until proven guilty" do not apply. But if the government can seize your life savings, or your house, or the car you need to get to work, the effective punishment is as bad or worse than the penalties imposed upon conviction of a crime – yet the owner of the seized property possesses no due process rights.


Because the courts will not act to end civil asset forfeitures, Congress must. Another "compromise" asset forfeiture bill will only lead to more abuses and outrages. Civil asset forfeiture must be abolished. Tell Congress to . . .


  • Require full Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment protection for all federal proceedings against owners of personal property. (See these Amendments on the Background page.)
  • Permit seizures of criminal profits only upon criminal conviction of its owner.
  • Permit seizures of legally-owned property only if its owner is convicted of a crime, to pay for fines, court costs, or restitution.
  • Withhold federal funds to all state and local law enforcement agencies that engage in civil asset forfeiture.
  • Enforce the 14th Amendment's requirement that "no person shall be deprived of ... property, without due process of law" by allowing victims of state and local seizures to contest forfeitures in federal court.
  • If you've used our lobbying mechanism before just enter your user email address and password, then hit GO. You'll be taken to a screen where you can add your own comments to the message to your elected representatives.
  • If you're using our lobbying system for the first time, please fill out the form for first time users. This information is used to direct your message to the correct Representative. Please provide your own password, do not let the system create one for you. Remember your password, it will allow you to use our system easily in the future for other issues.

Use the form at right to send your elected representatives a letter about this issue. It's easy!

  • Your position will be counted by each Congressional office,
  • Will educate the Congressional staffer who reads it,
  • May be passed up the chain of command,
  • May receive a reply (many DC Downsizers get them). If you receive such a letter, please share it with us at Comments@DownsizeDC.org.

Send a letter to Congress

We provide the first few words of the letter so that Congressional offices will see the most important point right at the start, and so that no one can hijack our system for another purpose. Here's the part we provide . . .

Civil asset forfeiture programs violate several provisions of the Bill of Rights. Introduce legislation to abolish civil asset forfeiture.
   
Your ZIP Code is required so we can direct your letter to your representatives in Congress.