NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 2, 2010

In Arizona, police can seize your property, sell it and keep the money to fund their own budgets without so much as charging you with a crime.   Under civil forfeiture laws, police and prosecutors can even seize your property after you have been found not guilty of a crime, says Timothy Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. 

For example: 

  • Prosecutors need merely to show by a preponderance of the evidence the property was connected to criminal activity rather than by the criminal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."
  • By giving law enforcement the ability to keep money and property that has been seized, Arizona's laws encourage policing for profit, not for justice. 

According to a new national report, "Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture," Arizona has some of the nation's worst civil forfeiture laws, earning a grade of D-.  Arizona's grade should come as no surprise; a 2004 Goldwater Institute report came to the same conclusion, but the Legislature has taken no significant action to curb forfeiture abuse, says Keller. 

To protect Arizonans' property rights, Keller recommends that lawmakers: 

  • Require police and prosecutors to get a criminal conviction before taking someone's property.
  • Remove the profit incentive for police by placing forfeiture money into the state general fund or another neutral fund.
  • Forbid state and local agencies from participating in a practice called "equitable sharing," by which state and local police turn property over to federal agents for seizure and then everyone splits the proceeds. 

Source: Timothy Keller, "It's time to end policing for profit in Arizona," Goldwater Institute, May 11, 2010. 

For report:


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