One Supreme Court victory hasn't solved the civil asset forfeiture fight

Unlike many forfeiture confiscations, in the case of Tyson Timbs, the Supreme Court was dealing with an instance wherein a criminal conviction did occur. The story began in 2015, when Timbs was arrested for selling just less than $400 of heroin. At the time of his arrest, Indiana police also seized his Land Rover SUV, which Timbs had originally purchased for $42,000 with money obtained legally…

Many times, property owners don’t bother to contest forfeiture confiscations because it isn’t worth it to hire a lawyer. In Utah, for example, police seized $2.2 million in cash in 2017 alone. Most of that money was seized in amounts less than $1,000. So, for every person who lost this money, hiring an attorney to get that cash back would cost far more than the amount they actually lost. Police know this and, as a result, may be more willing to seize property in these cases, taking advantage of vulnerable people who can’t or won’t fight back.

Some states, including North Carolina, New Mexico, and Nebraska, have outright abolished the controversial practice of asset seizure, and South Carolina could be next. Eleven other states require a criminal conviction before forfeiture proceedings can occur, which is certainly a step in the right direction. But unfortunately, as was the case with Timbs, this is still subject to abuse even when a conviction occurs. Courts may allow forfeiture even when the connection between property and crime is obscure.