State and federal laws allow law enforcement agencies to seize the property of an individual who has not been charged with a crime. This practice tears at the heart of justice and fairness in our system and turns the fundamental principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty on its head.
NACDL believes that asset forfeiture represents one of the most fundamental threats to the individual liberties of those accused of criminal activities as well as citizens not charged with any crime. NACDL strongly encourages the reform of asset forfeiture laws.
It can be difficult and burdensome for a person to fight the necessary legal battle to regain possession of their property, even if that person is innocent. Moreover, law enforcement agencies may profit from seized assets, allowing them to raise revenue at the expense of innocent citizens.
- NACDL's Model Asset Forfeiture Legislation
- NACDL's Asset Forfeiture Resolution
- Pending State Legislation
- Priority Federal Legislation
- Congressional Hearings (see video and written testimonies)
- "Federal Asset Forfeiture: Uses and Reforms," House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, February 11, 2015
- "The Need to Reform Asset Forfeiture," Senate Judiciary Committee, April 15, 2015
- Letters of Support
- End Civil Forfeiture – The Institute for Justice's Initiative to End Policing for Profit
John Oliver on Civil Forfeiture
Comedian John Oliver discussed civil asset forfeiture on his program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, highlighting some of the consequences of the current law in various cases. (Aired October 5, 2014)
The Washington Post's Multi-Part Series on Forfeiture Reform (September-October 2014)
Part 1: Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes — After Sept. 11, 2001, a cottage industry of private police trainers emerged to teach aggressive techniques of highway interdiction to thousands of local and state police.
Part 2: Police intelligence targets cash: Reports on drivers, training by firm fueled law enforcement agressiveness — One training firm started a private intelligence-sharing network and helped shape law enforcement nationwide.
Part 3: They found the law. Who won?: Many drivers faced a long ordeal in court to try to get their money back from police — Motorists caught up in the seizures talk about the experience and the legal battles that could take over a year.
Part 4: Asset seizures fuel police spending — Police agencies nationwide routinely buy vehicles and weapons with money and property seized under federal civil forfeiture law from people who were not charged with a crime.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
Articles from The Champion®
Taking the Profit Out of Crime: Forfeiture
Part I: The Basics
According to the government, the goal of forfeiture is to take the profit out of crime. The government seeks to take private assets – including cash and real property – that it claims constitute the proceeds of criminal activity. Steven L. Kessler discusses some of the basics every attorney should know about forfeiture.
- Forfeiture Money Judgments: Will the Supreme Court Clamp Down
Harjo v. City of Albuquerque: A Road Map for Challenging Government Forfeiture Programs
The city of Albuquerque seized Arlene Harjo’s car after her son borrowed it and was arrested for DUI. Her case shows that a forfeiture statute may appear constitutional on its face but, in actuality, may provide improper financial incentives to prosecutors and police to seize citizens’ property for their own or their organization’s benefit. The Harjo case offers lessons on how to successfully mount a due process challenge to forfeiture statutes.
Criminal Forfeiture Case Law Updates
Asset forfeiture – also called “policing for profit” – has come under scrutiny from courts and legislatures. Elliot Abrams provides defense lawyers with recent updates to forfeiture law, primarily focusing on pretrial seizure and attorney’s fees. Courts are taking a hard look at forfeiture and pretrial seizures, and lawyers should continue bringing statutory challenges to actions that appear to violate statutory language or a defendant’s fundamental rights.
News of Interest
- "Federal Court Says Warrantless Seizure Of Vehicles Over Unpaid Fees Violates The Constitution,"
- "Report Shows Kansas Law Enforcement Seized $21 Million From People, Most Of Whom Were Never Charged With Crimes,"
- "Boston City Council resolution urges state to reform civil forfeiture laws,"
- "Kansas law enforcement routinely produces error-filled reports on seized cash and property,"