New Pelican Institute Policy Report Unveils Millions Seized In Private Property
NEW ORLEANS (press release) – The Pelican Institute for Public Policy released a new policy report today looking into Louisiana’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Civil asset forfeiture is the ability for the government to seize people’s personal property without charging or convicting the property owner of a crime.
The report showed that from 2000 to 2020, the government seized a yearly average of almost $9 million in assets — totaling over $186 million over two decades. Additionally, the report found there is little transparency surrounding the process of civil asset forfeiture. Specifically, there is no way to tell if there was a conviction in conjunction with the seizure of personal property.
The report shows that the property that is seized is disbursed between law enforcement agencies. Sixty percent goes to the seizing law enforcement agency, twenty percent goes to district attorney’s offices involved in the forfeiture, and another twenty percent goes to the criminal court fund.
“The government is supposed to protect life, liberty, and property, not threaten it. Since courts, district attorneys, and law enforcement get a portion of what is seized, an incentive has been created that encourages more of this seizure of private property,” said Raheem Williams, Director of the Kevin Kane Center for Opportunity Policy.
The Pelican Institute laid out a list of policy suggestions that could bring Louisiana more in line with other states that have addressed civil asset forfeiture:
- Eliminate civil asset forfeiture in favor of criminal asset forfeiture and require a conviction for the accused party before their property can be seized.
- Set a minimum value for property eligible to be seized.
- Put all forfeiture related funds into a neutral account such as the state general fund.
“Civil asset forfeiture is an affront to the core values of a free society. We cannot allow innocent people’s possessions to be taken by the government any longer. Louisianans deserve fairness in their legal system, not the threat of their personal belongings being seized even if they are found innocent,” said Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy.