Looking at polls showing public attitudes toward civil asset forfeiture really helps you realize how much law enforcement and prosecutors are able to subvert the public interest in the name of pursuing money.
New polls from Utah and Florida show that once Americans understand what “civil asset forfeiture” is—a mechanism by which police can seize assets and property from people based on suspicion of criminal activity that does not have to be proven—they are overwhelmingly opposed to it. The numbers from the two polls were almost the same. In Utah 83 percent of those polled opposed the concept of civil asset forfeiture. In Florida, 84 percent opposed it. And yet, reforming the system is a huge struggle. Reformers in Florida just had a victory there, passing a new law requiring that people actually be charged with a crime in order to attempt to seize their stuff.
Understanding the issue is key. According to the Utah poll, 77 percent said they had never even heard of “civil asset forfeiture laws.” And yet, nine percent in Utah and eight percent in Florida said they knew somebody who had their property seized by police without being charged with a crime.
So the information campaign is important, and we’re seeing anti-civil forfeiture commentaries and editorials pop up in media outlets across the country where the issue is discussed. In New Mexico, where the toughest state-level asset forfeiture reform occurred a year ago, the citizenry were informed about forfeiture due to highly publicized police abusescaptured on video. It seems likely that the more people learn about it and the more it keeps happening, the less complacent voters will be about it and the more they’ll push for reform. Jason Snead, a policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial studies, pointed out in The Daily Signal how much police have become dependent on asset forfeiture and how little they seem to care about the impact: