DOJ Expending Over $6 Billion to Support Civil Asset Forfeitures, Viewed as Targeting Americans ‘Like ATMs,’ According to Watchdog

In anticipation of potential budget cuts by House Republicans, the Department of Justice has directed $6 billion towards private firms engaged in the confiscation of money and assets from taxpayers.

Civil asset forfeiture presents a profitable venture for law enforcement organizations, as they are not obligated to press charges against the individuals whose assets they take. Consequently, numerous victims choose not to pursue legal action to reclaim their seized assets.

As per a report by the DOJ, they gained a substantial benefit of $1.8 billion in 2022 through their asset seizure activities.

“You’ve probably heard the adage, ‘you’ve gotta spend money to make money,” said Dan Alban, head of the Institute for Justice’s National Initiative to End Forfeiture. “Here, it’s ‘you’ve gotta spend money to take money,’”

The utilization of civil asset seizure, a mechanism that enables the government to appropriate assets from individuals without officially accusing them of any criminal wrongdoing, has remained a subject of prolonged debate.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed contracts exceeding $6 billion granted to private firms. These contracts are intended to assist in asset forfeiture investigations, encompassing tasks ranging from asset identification and investigation to maintaining records and providing courtroom testimony.

“Congress must act to prevent law enforcement from treating ordinary Americans like ATMs,” asserted Albany, noting the $6 billion appropriated for asset seizure.

Concerns have been repeatedly voiced by critics, particularly focusing on the unjust difficulties innocent citizens encounter when trying to reclaim their confiscated belongings.

Under the current legal framework, the responsibility falls on the owner of the property to furnish evidence of their innocence, rather than the government having to prove their guilt.

The Institute for Justice, a consistent detractor of the civil asset forfeiture process, asserts that the contracts underscore the extensive scale of asset forfeiture operations taking place.

According to the Institute for Justice, forfeiture practices disproportionately affect everyday Americans, particularly in cases involving minor forfeitures.

Despite law enforcement agencies arguing that asset forfeitures act as a deterrent and disruptive measure against illegal activities, growing doubts surround the equity and openness of the procedure.

The recent allotment of funds by the DOJ intensifies these concerns, leaving many to question whether the rights of citizens are being properly protected.