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Asset forfeiture laws may not help keep communities safer

Authorities in Colorado and throughout the country say that asset forfeiture laws are a necessary tool to help fight crime. However, those who study the issue say that it's little more than a way for local governments to raise revenue. A study released by the Institute for Justice says that for every 1% unemployment goes up in an area, asset forfeiture increases by 9%. Furthermore, other research has found that relatively minor amounts of money are seized in most cases.

One study conducted by the Texas Tribune looked at 560 asset forfeiture cases in the state. It found that in 50% of cases, less than $3,000 was taken from individuals. In South Carolina, a study revealed that less than $1,000 was taken in 55% of cases. This seems to undercut assertions made by law enforcement groups that they seize assets as a means of combating major drug rings.

Those who want asset forfeiture reform say that current laws don't provide citizens with enough protection. Furthermore, assets tend to be seized more frequently from minorities and low-income individuals. Although some states have changed their forfeiture laws, the federal government has not yet taken such action. If a federal agency takes over a case, national asset forfeiture laws apply. A portion of any money taken is put into a federal program, which is then funneled back to the states.

Anyone who is convicted of a crime could experience a number of long-term consequences such as many years or decades in prison in addition to financial penalties. Having a criminal record can also interfere with the process of getting a job or a home. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to hire an attorney to help a person avoid a conviction.

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