Civil asset forfeiture is the legal principle that law enforcement can seize cash and property from those suspected of committing crimes even when suspects are never convicted or, in some cases, even charged with a crime. Trump has signaled that he supports the civil asset forfeiture as a tool of law enforcement and even commented that he would destroy the career of a lawmaker working to reform the law.
Trump signaled he would fight reform efforts in Congress, saying politicians could “get beat up really badly by the voters” if they pursue laws to limit police authority.
The comments could signal an abrupt halt to efforts to curb the practice under the Obama administration, which also had faced heavy criticism from civil libertarians and criminal justice reform advocates.
Brittany Hunter of the free-market Foundation for Economic Education wrote that the president’s “egregious comments” effectively destroy “any hope that his administration will be better on this issue than President Obama. In fact, the situation may very well become worse.”
According to the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm, the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund generated $93.7 million in revenue in 1986. By 2014, the annual figure had reached $4.5 billion — a 4,667 percent increase. The practice surged for years under the Obama administration.
While critics believe the policy creates a profit incentive for law enforcement, police organizations say it is an important tool and charges of abuse have been blown out of proportion.