Civil Asset Forfeiture: Good Intentions Gone Awry and The Need for Reform


Despite civil asset forfeiture’s noble intentions, the many stories of innocent victims and law enforcement abuses prove that the pendulum has swung too far in favor of law enforcement. In reforming forfeiture laws, however, we must be careful not to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. The process should be made fairer and more transparent, the profit incentive of forfeiture should be abolished or severely constrained, and there should be greater oversight. Civil asset forfeiture should be returned to its original purpose: penalizing those who seek to profit from their illegal activities. If such funds were deposited into the general treasury, nothing would preclude law enforcement authorities from going to Congress or their state legislatures and seeking an increase in their budgets or victims’ compensation funds.

Read the full report by John G. Malcolm here.

About the Author:

John G. Malcolm, Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow and director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, is a former member of the Board of Governors of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation ( is an independent think tank that proposes market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

This Issue Analysis was first published by The Heritage Foundation and is reprinted with permission by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The author would like to thank Jason Snead, Research Associate in the Meese Center, for his able and diligent assistance. 

© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (June 5, 2015). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.





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