Imagine a country where police could seize private property at will, use it to line their pockets, and place the burden on the citizens to challenge its relation to the commission of a crime. Arbitrary state seizure, presumption of guilt, shameless profiteering; these all sound like hallmarks of a Third World dictatorship or a corrupt communist regimes. However, this is a common practice in Minnesota known as asset forfeiture.
In theory, the law is intended to help police combat violent gangs and large-scale drug traffickers, but in practice, cops have been using it to plunder the communities they have sworn to protect. In 2019 alone, police have seized over $8 million dollars of property from Minnesota residents. Since police departments and prosecutors get to keep 90% of what they seize, they are incentivized to wield the power of the law on even the most low level offenders.
Simply being in possession of tiny amounts of certain drugs, including some forms of marijuana, can lead to your cash, your car or even your home being taken from you.
Didn’t commit a crime? Doesn’t matter, in forfeiture cases the police can steal your property even if someone else committed a crime while in possession of your property, and you still have to take the initiative to challenge the case in court to get it back.
Due to corruption and inherent immorality of these laws, a bipartisan coalition of Minnesota lawmakers passed significant reforms in 2014 and 2017. There is still more to be done though. Police should not be able to profit from asset forfeiture, full stop: 100% of the proceeds should go to the state’s general fund.
Additionally, drug-related forfeiture should be abolished entirely. It is unjust that low-level, non-violent offenders should be punished twice for a single crime. Let your representative know that Minnesotans are tired of being extorted by those sworn to protect us.