Texas Police Claim Millions in Money, Property, Cars with 'Civil Forfeiture'

| by Michael Allen

Police in Texas are raking in tons of money, property and cars, all thanks to a controversial legal maneuver called "civil forfeiture."

Under this obscure law, someone's property can be forfeited to a local police force, even if the property owner has not committed a crime, notes Forbes.

In a civil forfeiture, the government only has to show a “preponderance of the evidence” that someone’s property is somehow related to a crime. So even innocent property owners are considered guilty until they are proven innocent.

The civil forfeiture law was originally created to go after drug kingpins, but it is now used on anyone and everyone.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the District Attorney’s Office in Tarrant County, Tx., seized a whopping $3.5 million in 2013, much of which was spent on salaries for people in the District Attorney’s Office.

$666,427 was taken from citizens by the Tarrant County narcotics unit, which turned around and spent $426,058 to pay the salaries of folks who work in the narcotics unit.

A federal program called “equitable sharing” allows Texas police departments to pocket up to 90 percent of money made from the sale of a forfeited property.

While Texas is not the only state that practices this type of legalized theft, the Lone Star state's law enforcement agencies seized cars, homes and electronics, which totaled more than $280 million, from 2001 to 2007. Some of the money was spent by law enforcement on Hawaiian vacations.

Sources: Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Forbes