PHOENIX-Arizona law enforcement agencies have used a legal tactic known as civil asset forfeiture to confiscate over $64.5 million of private property since 2000, a new Goldwater Institute report documents. Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to confiscate property connected to a crime without ever filing criminal charges against the property owner.
For example, former New Jersey deputy sheriff Carol Thomas made headlines after her teenage son used her 1990 Ford Thunderbird to sell marijuana to an undercover police officer without her knowledge. Her son was charged and convicted, and Ms. Thomas' car was confiscated.
Tim Keller, study co-author and executive director of the Institute for Justice, stated that "civil asset forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in Arizona today, letting prosecutors and police confiscate private property without regard to an owner's guilt or innocence." The Institute for Justice is currently representing Ms. Thomas in New Jersey.
The Goldwater report, Policing and Prosecuting for Profit argues that the due process clauses in the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions require law enforcement officials to fairly and impartially administer law, but Arizona's civil forfeiture law threatens to divert law enforcement away from this goal. The report shows asset forfeitures constitute a sizable percentage of many agency budgets. Statewide, nearly one of every five dollars received from confiscated property-almost $11 million-went directly into the pockets of prosecutors and police in the form of employee compensation.
Anyone who has had property confiscated under civil asset forfeiture laws is urged to contact the Arizona Chapter of the Institute for Justice at (602) 324-5440.
Contacts: Tim Keller, Executive Director, Institute for Justice, Arizona Chapter, (602) 324-5440, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Woodmansee, Director of Communications, Goldwater Institute, (602) 462-5000 x 226, email@example.com