Civil asset forfeiture is a little-known practice that allows police or other government agencies to confiscate citizens' money or property without charging them with any crime. Because it is technically the seized asset — not the person who owned it — which is under suspicion, it is typically extremely difficult for people to get their stuff back.
The New York Times reports that police are offered seminars in civil asset forfeiture that coach them into making confiscations based on departmental "wish lists." Taking jewelry and computers is discouraged as impractical, but cash, luxury cars, and flat screen TVs are in high demand.
In a video of one such seminar shared by the Times, Las Cruces, New Mexico city attorney Harry S. Connelly Jr. regretfully explains an incident in which police were not able to auction off a new Mercedes they'd improperly seized. However, "that's just one of the little goodies that we got," Connelly concludes. Read the full report at The New York Times.