Dan Alban, co-director of the Institute for Justice's National Initiative to End Forfeiture Abuse, recently explained to Tony Perkins that civil asset forfeiture is something that allows law enforcement to seize property, money, or assets if they think it is connected to criminal activity.
Government agencies are not currently prohibited from participating in it; they can seize property from people without charging them with a crime. And according to Alban, "They very actively do it."
"Because it is such a big business, particularly for federal agencies, they hire independent contractors, private contractors," he continued. "They just recently issued over $6 billion in contracts to private contractors over the next five years."
In his opinion, the willingness to spend $6 billion on investigations, on processing paperwork, and on all the other administrative things that need to be done for civil forfeiture, the federal government is highlighting the degree to which it is targeting Americans.
"It's a threat to property rights," the attorney contends. "It's a threat to civil liberties, and it's something that does not require a criminal charge, let alone a criminal conviction."
One person who knows this situation well is a client of Alban's. A native of Nigeria, she came to the U.S. decades ago and worked as a nurse. The woman wanted to go back to Nigeria and open a medical clinic for women and children.
"She saved up her money for many years," Alban relayed on the radio program. "She was flying back to Nigeria, and as she boarded her flight, she was pulled aside by Customs and Border Protection, and they seized over $40,000 that was intended for this medical clinic."
They kept the money for months, preventing her from establishing the clinic "anywhere near the timeframe she wanted to."
Another client was a Christian rock band that was on a tour of the U.S. to raise money for orphans in Thailand and for a Christian college being established in Burma.
"Their band manager was stopped in Muskogee, Oklahoma because he had a broken taillight," the attorney reported. "They seized all of the money that the band had raised in over three months of touring. Simply because he had a broken taillight, and he was in a car with $53,000 in cash … they thought he must be somehow involved in drug dealing."
Though the Institute for Justice was able to get the money returned for both the band and the nurse, Alban said most people are not so fortunate.
"If missionaries and orphans and refugees can be victimized by civil forfeiture, anyone can be victimized by civil forfeiture," he warned. "That's why it's such a danger."