All fifty states and the federal government have civil asset forfeiture laws that enable law enforcement agencies to seize property that they suspect has been involved in the commission of a crime. Although there are many benefits to the system, there are also many flaws. The entire structure of the civil asset forfeiture system, at both the federal and state levels, creates incentives for abuse by law enforcement. This Note advocates for a series of changes to the current forfeiture law in Massachusetts, including requiring a heightened burden of proof, providing counsel to indigent property owners, and reforming the incentive structure created by the interaction with federal forfeiture law. These statutory safeguards will help reduce the disproportionate impact that Massachusetts’s forfeiture law has on lower income parties and the general population overall.
Civil Asset Forfeiture in Massachusetts: A Flawed Incentive Structure and its Impact on Indigent Property Owners,
B.C.J.L. & Soc. Just.