Civil asset forfeiture, or simply civil forfeiture, is a procedure whereby a law enforcement agency can seize and retain certain assets, like cash or a car, if there is reasonable suspicion that those assets were employed in the commission of a crime.
In many cases, they can keep the property even though the criminal charges are never proved. The controversial practice is lauded by law enforcement agencies as an effective and essential crime-fighting tool, particularly in the fight against drugs.
But civil forfeiture has earned increasing scrutiny as a result of attention to nationwide abuses whereby citizens that were not convicted or even charged have been faced with the costly prospect of fighting in court for the return of seized property. In many cases, the fight is an uphill one, requiring significant legal fees and other costs that many innocent individuals can ill afford.
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