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an ancient principle of American and British law

  • Motivates police misbehavior. Critics contend that the system is set up in a way as to incentivize “perverse behavior” by “predatory government agencies”.[28] It makes it possible for government officials to seize property such as cash, vehicles, houses, and jewelry from people without ever convicting them for wrongdoing in a court or even charging them with a crime.[27] The cash and assets are a major temptation for police to presume that activity is illegal. Critics say the huge amount of money involved have a distorting effect on police, such that they are more interested in seizing cash rather than illegal drugs.[3] Seized assets can be used for police office expenses, new equipment, vehicles.[3] The profit motive, in which police can keep 90% or more of profits, “forms the rotten core of forfeiture abuse”.[6]Prosecutors and police have a strong incentive to seize property since the funds can be used to pay expenses of the District Attorney’s office, including salaries. Over a ten-year period, the forfeiture money collected was $25 million in Philadelphia, with seized funds being used to pay salaries for people working in the District Attorney’s office.[10] When funds are returned to the victim, it can happen that the funds come out of taxpayer money, not out of police funds such as a pension fund.[8] Seized amounts of money have gone for new police equipment, parties, travel expenses, training seminars, sometimes held in distant locations such as Las Vegas or Hawaii.[8] A Texas prosecutor used $25,000 in seized cash to take his office staff including spouses and a judge on a vacation to Hawaii.[8] There are no penalties for wrongful seizures, particularly when taxpayers pay when ill-gotten gains from innocent citizens must be returned, so there is an incentive to “find” a drug-related issue when police come across cash.[8] The incentives work against police seizing drugs but push them to seize cash instead: