Right now in most of the United States, the police can seize your property without charging or convicting you of a crime. It is called civil asset forfeiture.
Civil Asset Forfeiture allows the police to seize cash, cars, and even houses from people who ultimately are found innocent, and police pocket the proceeds. Many police departments depend on seizures to bolster their budgets and rely on the practice despite the public outcry.
A Bipartisan Coalition of grassroots volunteers across the country, lawmakers in at least 15 states are weighing legislation to do away with the practice. Iowa just passed legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture; prosecutors must obtain a criminal conviction to seize property worth less than $5,000.
In Tennessee, lawmakers are voting on requirements that the proceeds of forfeitures be deposited in the state’s general fund, hoping to remove the incentive for police to seize property unjustly. Tennesee law enforcement collected nearly $86M in forfeiture, from 2009-2014.
New Hampshire has garnered an average of more than $1M a year from 2000 to 2013 through this tactic. The state legislature is working on a bill to close that loophole.