“IF IN DOUBT … TAKE IT!”

That’s the advice in a slideshow presented to New Jersey prosecutors pursuing civil asset forfeiture cases, an obscure process which allows the government to take citizens’ property even if they have not been convicted or charged with a crime.

In other training sessions and lectures across country, law enforcement officials spoke frankly about targeting expensive cars and flat-screen TVs, mocked the Spanish accents of people whose property had been taken, and described a well-crafted forfeiture complaint as a “masterpiece of deception.”

Harry Connelly, the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., called such property “little goodies” in a Santa Fe training session.

New Mexico is one of several states around the country that has expanded its asset forfeiture program to include prostitution stings and drunk driving busts.