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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Civil Asset Forfeiture is a practice of law enforcement where the stated purpose is to combat drug trafficking. However, police are allowed to seize any asset if they suspect it is connected with any criminal activity. Guilty Until Proven Innocent, a policy brief written by ACRE affiliated Research Analyst Maleka Momand, looks at this process in Arkansas. Under state law, agencies are allowed to keep 100 percent of seized property for use at the agency’s discretion. This leaves police with a perverse incentive, as they keep any assets they seize and there is often a low standard of proof in forfeiture litigation. This puts potentially innocent Arkansans at risk of having their property taken away and never returned. Under civil asset forfeiture, they are guilty until proven innocent.

This report only provides a partial account of what is going on in Arkansas, as record keeping at both the state and local level is lacking. However, there are several crucial findings:

  • Most of these property seizures affect ordinary Arkansans.
  • Most of the seizures are located along one of the state’s primary travel routes: Interstate 40.
  • Counties with a higher percentage of Hispanics tend to have a higher amount of currency seized, indicating that there may be some racial bias within this practice.

If you want to read more of our work on property rights, you can view our page here.