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NAACP Call for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

WHEREAS, "civil asset forfeiture" is a process by which a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency can seize or confiscate a person's property under the guise that it constitutes proceeds of a crime or was instrumental in the commission of a crime, without having to convict the person of a crime as the process is considered a civil rather than a criminal action; and

WHEREAS, since September 2001, state and local law enforcement authorities under the auspices of just one program, the "Equitable Sharing Program," have taken in over $2.5 billion through more than 62,000 cash seizures from people who were not charged with a crime; and

WHEREAS, in too many cases, current federal asset forfeiture laws create a financial incentive for the pursuit of profit over the fair administration of justice, facilitate the circumvention of state laws intended to protect citizens from abuse, encourage the violation of due process and property rights of Americans, and disproportionately impact people of color and those with modest means; and

WHEREAS, civil asset forfeiture takes place in a variety of situations where racial and ethnic minorities are targeted by police because of racial profiling, including airports and traffic stops. As a result, many scholars, attorneys, civil rights experts and victims of civil forfeiture believe that these "takings" by law enforcement occur at a disproportionate rate in racial and ethnic minority communities; and

WHEREAS, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for pointing out that the Volusia County Sheriff's Office had used state seizure laws to take $8 million from motorists, nine out of ten whom were racial or ethnic minorities; and

WHEREAS, a report issued in June, 2015, by the Philadelphia ACLU found that "…(C)ivil forfeiture laws are enforced disproportionately against African-Americans — especially and most disturbingly, against African-Americans who were never convicted of any offense;" and

WHEREAS, the report goes on to state that "An estimated 7 out of 10 people whose cash is taken by Philadelphia law enforcement even though they have not been convicted of a crime are African-American;" and

WHEREAS, victims of civil asset forfeiture also must prove their own innocence or the innocence of their property in order to get their property back — turning the presumption of innocence on its head. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) calls for the termination of programs which condone and even reward civil asset forfeiture, including the so-called "Equitable Sharing Program" at the federal level which allows state and local law enforcement to seize property from individuals without proving criminal wrongdoing and then refer this property to federal authorities to pursue forfeiture; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls on Congress to pass comprehensive and effective civil asset forfeiture reform.

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