How the DEA Convinced the States to Adopt Civil Asset Forfeiture to Fight the War on Drugs

The history of how the states adopted civil asset forfeiture is an obscure and under appreciated part of the War on Drugs (emphasis mine):

Four years ago, the U.S. Congress amended the federal Uniform Controlled Substances Act to permit the civil forfeiture of property of virtually any kind, including money, when the property could be directly linked to illegal drug transactions. As a result of that amendment, federal agents in fiscal year 1980-1981 were responsible for the forfeiture of over five million dollars in assets from Michigan drug busts in which local law enforcement agencies often played a major role. These assets benefitted the federal treasury, but had Michigan's laws contained similar forfeiture provisions those funds could have been retained by state and local law enforcement agencies for use in the state in the fight against drug trafficking. However, state officials have no authority under current state law to forfeit assets related to drug violations using the civil law's lower standard of proof. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has made available a model law for states to use in making their laws parallel to the federal act.... [T]he legislature ought to act to adopt some form of that model law so that law enforcement agencies and substance abuse programs in the state could make use of forfeited assets that otherwise would go to the federal government. [Michigan State House Legislative Analysis, SB 645, September 21, 1982.]


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