Libertarians have long railed against the lawful theft that civil forfeiture laws authorize. The Drug War underlies much of the justification for state-mandated property theft, of course, in cases where no one has been charged with a crime, and mere suspicion carries the day:
Under civil forfeiture, police are allowed to seize a person’s property without charging that person with a crime. All they need is a “preponderance of evidence” that the property was used illegally, but of course the police’s definition of “preponderance” has been stretched to include “virtually none.” Because most citizens that have been seized from don’t have the money to hire a lawyer to get their property back, the police are free to take cars, houses, and, most commonly, cash from vehicles, with impunity.
It happens far more often than you’d think. That $2.5 billion number was the result of over 60,000 cash seizures, none of which resulted in the person being seized from getting charged with a crime. Cops can freely assign whatever intent they want; the mere existence of cash is enough to assume it is going to be used for drugs.
What do law enforcement agencies use all this seized money for? You guessed it: bullshit. In Texas, the Montgomery Country PD bought kegs of beer, bottles of liquor, and a margarita machine. In Massachusetts, one DA’s office used seized money to buy a Zamboni — yes, one of those big machines used to groom the ice at hockey games.