In regard to Texas, civil asset forfeiture is a misnomer. The state’s governing statute on the practice, Chapter 59 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, does not once mention the term. Rather, it talks only of criminal forfeiture that, both internally and via referenced statutes, is subject to civil process and held to civil standards of action. Under current law, property may be taken without so much as criminal behavior being alleged, much less substantiated.
Further, civil asset forfeiture is wildly unpopular. In Texas alone, 88 percent of individuals are opposed to its current application (Right on Crime). Results in similar states follow suit: 88 percent of Mississippians reject the practice (Shackford 2016a), as do 84 percent of Floridians and 83 percent of Utahans (Shackford 2016b). Why then does the practice continue unaltered in arguably the most liberty-loving state in the Union?
The status quo of civil asset forfeiture in Texas persists due to common myths surrounding the practice and its prospective elimination. Those myths, while false, warrant discussion.
- Forfeiture abuse is not a media fabrication, nor is coverage an excuse not to change the practice.
- Inadequate safeguards currently exist.
- Reform will not result in a public safety funding shortfall.
- Alternatives exist when a conviction is required, but not achievable.