It probably seemed like a bright idea at the time: Let the police seize the ill-gotten gains of alleged drug dealers and other suspected criminals and sell it, using the proceeds to buy much-needed crime-fighting gear.
Unfortunately, the process—civil asset forfeiture—did not require convicting anybody of a crime. In fact, it didn’t even require charging anybody with a crime.
Not surprisingly, this led to rampant abuse, which has been abundantly documented for many years. Various reform efforts, including a 2000 federal law, have been unable to stop what’s become known as policing for profit.
But Virginia lawmaker Mark Cole is going to give it another shot. That’s as good a sign as any that civil asset forfeiture has jumped the shark.