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D.C. police decide in advance how much money to seize from citizens

Civil asset forfeiture has become just another part of the budget for Washington, D.C. police. The police chief claims that seizing cash, cars, and other assets from citizens without charging them with any crime is about "removing the profit gained from facilitating a crime" — not raising revenue. But the department budget's advance plans for use of seizure profits suggest otherwise.

A previously little-known practice in which police or other government agencies confiscate people's money or stuff without advancing criminal charges, civil asset forfeiture has become increasingly controversial in recent months. For many police departments, it's a convenient way to get "little goodies" — and millions in their coffers.

In the District, police make thousands of seizures per year with a median dollar amount of $141. The city council is set to vote on a bill on Tuesday that would make seizure more difficult and give individuals whose property is taken more legal recourse.