“Iowa Troopers Steal $100,000 in Poker Winnings From Two Players Driving Through”

Jacob Sullum traces how a gambling jackpot magically became a forfeiture jackpot (also from him, a history of how forfeiture law got so bad). The Washington Post followed up last month on its multi-part, front-page exposure of forfeiture law (Tim Lynch and Scott Shackford summarize some of its findings) with an op-ed from two former DoJ officials calling for abolition of the program they once helped run; Scott Greenfield has commentary on that as well as more generally on the costs of defense in forfeiture cases and on Nassau County, N.Y.’s resumption of the seizure of cars being driven by persons arrested for drunk driving, whether or not owned by those persons.

From today’s Washington Post: “Activists and Hill staffers meet to discuss curbs to asset-forfeiture laws”. And George Leef writes in Forbes: “Time For Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws To Meet The Same Fate As Jim Crow.”


  • The Nassau County program sounds like it goes too far. Nevertheless, one of the few forfeiture programs I support would be of cars driven unsafely by people with licenses already suspended for unsafe driving. (ie, my dragnet would not capture people with licenses suspended for other coercive purposes, eg tax arrears).

    (1) Obviously, lesser sanctions have failed with this unsafe driver.

    (2) Factual determination of whether the unsafe driver’s license is already suspended is obvious, not needing determination at an expensive and endlessly delayed criminal trial.

    (3) Suppose the offending driver does not own the car? The actual owner could get it back (with reasonable costs) if the unsafe driver is convicted of criminal car theft. Otherwise, the owner would be awarded an immediate default judgement for restitution against the unsafe driver. If it is not worth collecting from a spouse, that comes with the territory. You should have made sure your problem spouse stopped driving until his/her license was restored.

  • We need to do more than just restrict or end the practice. “Restitution,” “reparation,” “truth and reconciliation” are the operative terms to describe what we need to do about a dark chapter of overt government predation on the public.

  • Fifteen years to repeal the epic bad idea of alcohol Prohibition. Forty years and counting toward an end of the mad-dog enforcement of “(un)controlled substance” Prohibition. That timeline suggests I’ll not live long enough to see the immensely profitable asset forfeiture policy relegated to the scrap heap of history , and I doubt any of us will live long enough to see the end of all forms of (to use Mr Thompson’s elegant phrase) “government predation on the public. ” The trend seems to be toward more predation, not less, regardless of the party nominally in charge.

  • Take:

    “The trend seems to be toward more predation, not less, regardless of the party nominally in charge.”

    Naturally, as both parties, to stay in power, must give away more and more and MORE money to buy, nay, rent their power. With the tax system stretched, they’re scratching for any source of money to use to stay in office.