Private Property

  • October 20, 2021    |   

    Frustrating, Corrupt, Unfair

    Civil Forfeiture in the Words of Its Victims

    Victims of civil forfeiture call it frustrating, corrupt and unfair. This first-of-its-kind survey describes the experiences of victims of one civil forfeiture program, Philadelphia’s. It finds victims typically came from disadvantaged communities, and they had extreme difficulty trying to fight the forfeiture of their property, even when innocent. It also suggests the program did little…

  • June 2, 2021    |    Scholarly Articles

    This study examines taxation by citation—local governments using code enforcement and the justice system to raise revenue rather than solely to advance public health and safety. It does so through a detailed case study of Morrow, Riverdale, and Clarkston, three Georgia cities with a history of prolific revenue generation through fines and fees from traffic…

  • February 10, 2021    |    Strategic Research

    Does Forfeiture Work? Evidence from the States February 2021 | By Brian D. Kelly, Ph.D. Forfeiture is a controversial tool police and prosecutors use to take and keep people’s cash, cars and even homes under the guise of fighting crime. This study is the first to look at whether state forfeiture actually fights crime or is…

  • January 14, 2021    |    Scholarly Articles

    This research note reports on the creation of a new panel dataset using multiple waves of substate estimates from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It also provides identifying information that contains state, place, and/or agency codes for merging additional datasets at levels below the state. The process for creating this dataset and…

  • December 14, 2020    |    Strategic Research

    Nationwide, civil forfeiture is a massive threat to property and due process rights. So finds the third edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture. The report presents the largest ever collection of state and federal forfeiture data—17 million data points—and grades the civil forfeiture laws of each state, the District of Columbia and the federal government. The report also includes a new analysis finding no increase in crime after New Mexico abolished civil forfeiture and the profit incentive in 2015, showing that strong forfeiture reform does not sacrifice public safety.

  • July 16, 2020    |    Strategic Research

    Jetway Robbery?

    Homeland Security and Cash Seizures at Airports

    Law enforcement agencies routinely seize currency from travelers at airports nationwide using civil forfeiture—a legal process that allows agencies to take and keep property without ever charging owners with a crime, let alone securing a conviction. This study is the first to examine airport currency seizures by Department of Homeland Security agencies. It is also…

  • April 30, 2020    |    Strategic Research

    Cities and towns nationwide use their power to enforce traffic, property code and other ordinances to raise revenue rather than solely to protect the public. And, as this report finds, a wide range of state laws may enable or even encourage such taxation by citation. This report is the first comprehensive accounting of state laws relating to municipal fines and fees. It uses 52 legal factors to rank the 50 states based on the extent to which their laws may contribute to municipal fines and fees abuse. The rankings offer a systematic way to diagnose possible relationships between state laws and municipal behavior—and to identify potential policy solutions.

  • October 24, 2019    |    Strategic Research

    The Price of Taxation by Citation

    Case Studies of Three Georgia Cities That Rely Heavily on Fines and Fees

    Taxation by citation is when local governments use their power to enforce traffic and other ordinances to raise revenue rather than solely to protect the public. This report explores the phenomenon via case studies of three Georgia cities that have historically relied on fines and fees from ordinance violations for large proportions of their revenues.…

  • June 7, 2019    |    Strategic Research

    Fighting Crime or Raising Revenue?

    Testing Opposing Views of Forfeiture

    Forfeiture is a controversial tool governments use to take and keep property often without charging or convicting anyone with a crime. Police typically get a portion of the proceeds. Proponents argue forfeiture helps police fight crime, while critics counter letting police keep forfeiture proceeds encourages “policing for profit.” To test these opposing claims, this study—the…

  • April 10, 2019    |    Scholarly Articles

    In 2014, Tyson Timbs sold $400 worth of drugs to undercover police in an effort to support his addiction. Tyson, a first-time offender, was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation and ordered to pay more than $1,200 in fines and fees. After Tyson paid his debt to society and…

  • December 10, 2018    |    Strategic Research

    Forfeiture in Arizona

    An Institute for Justice Analysis of FY2018 Reporting Data

    In 2017, Arizona adopted incremental but important bipartisan reforms of the state’s civil forfeiture system. These reforms included new transparency requirements for forfeiture, obliging agencies to report the value, type and date of a property seizure, whether any criminal charges were filed, and the final disposition of the seized property. This reporting reform was designed…

  • December 7, 2018    |    Strategic Research

    Civil Forfeiture, Crime Fighting and Safeguards for the Innocent

    An Analysis of Department of Justice Forfeiture Data

    In 2017, the Department of Justice revived a controversial federal forfeiture program the previous administration had sharply curtailed. In defense of these “adoptive forfeitures” or “adoptions,” as well as of civil forfeiture in general, the DOJ claims that 1) civil forfeiture overwhelmingly targets criminals, not innocents, and is thus a valuable crime-fighting tool and 2)…

  • August 9, 2018    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Expropriation in Puerto Rico

    Policy Brief and Report Card

    In a new report (released August 6), the Institute for Justice (IJ) gives Puerto Rico’s eminent domain laws a grade of “F.” IJ is a nonprofit, civil liberties law firm dedicated to ending eminent domain abuse:  when the government seizes private property not for traditional public uses, but for private development. The report examines Puerto…

  • May 1, 2018    |    Scholarly Articles

    On a cool, sunny November day, Mark Brewer – a disabled decorated U.S. Air Force veteran – was driving through the state of Nebraska on his way to Los Angles to visit his uncle. While there, Brewer planned to make a down payment on a house. To that end, he was carrying more than $60,000…

  • December 5, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Finding the American Dream at Home

    How Home-Based Businesses Benefit Entrepreneurs and Their Communities

    Across the country, millions of enterprising people are running businesses out of their homes. This report outlines the myriad benefits of home-based businesses and suggests that government regulations curtailing them are short-sighted. It details how home-based businesses make entrepreneurship possible for people of all different backgrounds and socio-economic circumstances, all while making meaningful contributions to…

  • January 16, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Every year, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States seize and keep billions of dollars in cash, cars, homes and other property using a legal tool called forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires that prosecutors prove people are guilty by securing a conviction before forfeiting their property as part of their punishment. But…

  • November 10, 2015    |    Strategic Research

    Policing for Profit: Second Edition

    The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture: 2nd Edition

    Civil forfeiture laws pose some of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today, too often making it easy and lucrative for law enforcement to take and keep property—regardless of the owner’s guilt or innocence. This updated and expanded second edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture makes the…

  • February 1, 2015    |    Strategic Research

    Seize First, Question Later

    The IRS and Civil Forfeiture

    Thanks to federal civil forfeiture laws, the Internal Revenue Service has seized millions of dollars from thousands of Americans’ bank accounts without proof of criminal wrongdoing.

  • September 8, 2014    |    Strategic Research

    Bad Apples or Bad Laws?

    Testing the Incentives of Civil Forfeiture

    An original experiment finds that civil forfeiture laws create a strong temptation for law enforcement to seize property to pad their own budgets.

  • January 1, 2013    |    Strategic Research

    A Stacked Deck

    How Minnesota's Civil Forfeiture Laws Put Citizens' Property at Risk

    State data show that from 2003 to 2010, forfeiture revenue in Minnesota jumped 75 percent, even as crime rates declined, and the average value of forfeited property was only $1,000.

  • January 1, 2013    |    Strategic Research

    Rotten Reporting in the Peach State

    Civil Forfeiture in Georgia Leaves the Public in the Dark

    Georgia has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the nation, a problem compounded by law enforcement agencies’ routine failure to report forfeiture revenue and expenditures as required by law. But a 2011 Institute for Justice lawsuit forced some agencies to begin filing reports, and a new requirement that agencies post these reports online…

  • December 1, 2012    |    Strategic Research

    Arizona’s Profit Incentive in Civil Forfeiture

    Dangerous for law enforcement; Dangerous for Arizonans

    Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws need to be reformed. In the upside-down world of civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize and keep cash and property that was allegedly involved in criminal activity—without ever proving a crime was actually committed. Unlike criminal forfeiture, with civil forfeiture a property owner need not be found guilty of a…

  • November 22, 2011    |    Scholarly Articles

    In this report, Director of Strategic Research Dick Carpenter responds to commentary on his article about the effects of eminent domain on poor and minority communities. Suggested citation: Carpenter, D. M. (2011). Comment on Carpenter and Ross (2009): Eminent domain and equity—A reply. Urban Studies, 48(16), 3621-3628. Click here to read the full report.

  • October 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Inequitable Justice

    How Federal "Equitable Sharing" Encourages Local Police and Prosecutors to Evade State Civil Forfeiture Law for Financial Gain

    This report examines a federal law enforcement practice known as “equitable sharing.” It enables—indeed, encourages—state and local police and prosecutors to circumvent the civil forfeiture laws of their states for financial gain. Civil forfeiture is the government power to take property suspected of involvement in a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture—used to take the ill-gotten gains…

  • June 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    In November 2010, as part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study National Survey, the Institute for Justice asked a random sample of 1,000 participants nationwide whether they support various features of modern civil forfeiture laws. The results reported below show that the public overwhelmingly favors reform that would extend greater protections to property owners and…

  • March 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Forfeiting Accountability

    Georgia Law Enforcement's Hidden Civil Forfeiture Funds

    Georgia has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country. But at least state law requires law enforcement to publicly report annual forfeiture proceeds and expenditures. Public reporting ought to help check abuse and prevent forfeiture funds from becoming off-the-books slush funds. Unfortunately, Forfeiting Accountability, like an earlier state audit, finds that these…

  • November 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Forfeiting Justice

    How Texas Police and Prosecutors Cash In On Seized Property

    Texas law gives police and prosecutors generous rewards for seizing people’s property—without even having to prove the owner committed any crime. And the law makes it so hard for owners to fight for the return of their property that many give up without even trying. As Forfeiting Justice shows, Texas law enforcement agencies have increasingly…

  • August 10, 2010    |    Scholarly Articles

    After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in the Kelo decision the use of eminent domain for private-to-private transfer of property for economic development, public outrage was followed by attempts to restrict such use of eminent domain. Opponents of restrictions predicted dire consequences for state and local economies. This study considers whether restricting the use of eminent domain…

  • June 1, 2010    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Five Years After Kelo

    The Sweeping Backlash Against One of the Supreme Court’s Most-Despised Decisions

    On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision called Kelo v. City of New London,[1] ruled that private economic development is a public use under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that governments could take people’s homes, small businesses and other property to hand over to private developers in…

  • March 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Policing for Profit: First Edition

    The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

    Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where property…

  • March 1, 2010    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Little Pink House

    A True Story of Defiance and Courage

    Before there were Tea Parties, there was Kelo. Susette Kelo’s name turned into a movement. Her loss of her property was the final straw for Americans in 2005. When they heard about the Kelo decision, homeowners and small businesses across this country refused to accept the idea that a well-connected developer could turn city hall…

  • January 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Empire State Eminent Domain

    Robin Hood in Reverse

    An analysis of the populations living in areas of New York City under threat of condemnation for private development finds that such eminent domain abuse disproportionately targets those who are less well-off and less educated, as well as ethnic and racial minorities—populations least able to fight back to protect their homes and businesses. In New…

  • October 1, 2009    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Building Empires, Destroying Homes

    Eminent Domain Abuse in New York

    New York is perhaps the worst state in the nation when it comes to eminent domain abuse. Government jurisdictions and agencies statewide have condemned or threatened to condemn homes and small businesses for the New York Stock Exchange, The New York Times, IKEA and Costco.

  • September 15, 2009    |    Scholarly Articles

    In dissenting from the US Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision upholding the use of eminent domain for private-to-private transfers of property, Justices O’Connor and Thomas asserted, based on the history of urban renewal, that eminent domain for private development would disproportionately hurt poor and minority communities. This study uses US census data and a sample of redevelopment…

  • April 1, 2009    |    Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse

    The former chairman and chief executive of New York state’s Urban Development Corporation reveals how Times Square succeeded for reasons that had little to do with government condemnation schemes and everything to do with public policy that allowed the market to work.

  • January 1, 2009    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    They Want to Erase Us Out

    The Faces of Eminent Domain Abuse in Texas

    This report documents how homes, farms and small businesses across Texas have been threatened by eminent domain for private gain.

  • June 1, 2008    |    Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse

    Simplify, Don’t Subsidize

    The Right Way to Support Private Development

    An independent developer details the outrageous bureaucratic and regulatory hurdles small developers must pass in order to build private projects.

  • June 1, 2008    |    Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse

    Baltimore’s Flawed Renaissance

    The Failure of Plan-Control-Subsidize Redevelopment

    Baltimore’s redevelopment strategy has long been deeply flawed and eminent domain has negatively impacted the city’s renewal.

  • March 1, 2008    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    California Scheming

    What Every Californian Should Know About Eminent Domain Abuse

    The report summarizes the legal history and areas of contention behind eminent domain for private development in California.

  • January 1, 2008    |    Strategic Research

    Doomsday? No Way

    Economic Trends and Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reform

    When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld eminent domain for private development in the 2005 Kelo case, the public reacted with shock and outrage, leading to a nationwide movement to reform state laws and curb the abuse of eminent domain for private gain. By the end of 2007, 42 states had passed some type of eminent…

  • August 1, 2007    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    50 State Report Card

    Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation Since Kelo

    Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s now-infamous decision in Kelo v. New London, 44 states have passed new laws aimed at curbing the abuse of eminent domain for private use.

  • July 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Victimizing the Vulnerable

    The Demographics of Eminent Domain Abuse

    In Kelo v. City of New London—one of the most reviled U.S. Supreme Court decisions in history—the Court upheld the use of eminent domain by governments to take someone’s private property and give it to another for private economic development. In a major expansion of eminent domain power, the now-infamous Kelo decision marked the first…

  • June 1, 2007    |    Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse

    Development Without Eminent Domain

    Foundation of Freedom Inspires Urban Growth

    The former mayor of Anaheim, Calif., describes how that city’s leadership brought economic vibrancy to one neighborhood without resorting to any takings of private property. He also explores the successes and failures of other cities around the nation in economic redevelopment.

  • February 1, 2007    |    Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse

    Eminent Domain & African Americans

    What is the Price of the Commons?

    Eminent domain has become what the Founding Fathers sought to prevent: a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to give to the rich and the politically powerful.

  • January 1, 2007    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Dreher and Echeverria

    Disinformation & Errors on Eminent Domain

    In the fight to protect home and small business owners from the government’s abuse of eminent domain, it was only a matter of time until the apologists of the practice—taking property from one private individual and transferring it to another—began their counteroffensive. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous and widely despised decision in Kelo v.…

  • December 1, 2006    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    A False Sense of Security

    The Potential for Eminent Domain Abuse in Washington

    Washington state law is rife with opportunities for eminent domain abuse.

  • June 1, 2006    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Opening the Floodgates

    Eminent Domain Abuse in a Post-Kelo World

    One year after the U.S. Supreme Court case, Kelo v. New London, local governments threatened eminent domain or condemned at least 5,783 homes, businesses, churches and other properties so that they could be transferred to another private party.

  • June 1, 2006    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Redevelopment Wrecks

    20 Failed Projects Involving Eminent Domain Abuse

    Cities and developers tend to overhype the benefits of private development projects that use eminent domain. But many of these projects are failures.

  • June 1, 2006    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    The report debunks several of the most prevalent myths about eminent domain for private gain.

  • September 1, 2005    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Kelo v. City of New London

    What it Means and the Need for Real Eminent Domain reform

    This white paper explains to both legislators and the general public why eminent domain reform is needed after the Kelo v. New London decision.

  • June 24, 2005    |   

    Activistas de todo el país han utilizado la información de este Manual de Supervivencia para proteger con éxito sus hogares y pequeños negocios del uso abusivo del dominio eminente. Este Manual de Supervivencia se elaboró partiendo de las estrategias prácticas más eficaces que existen para proteger su propiedad sin llegar a tribunales, con el fin…

  • November 1, 2004    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Policing and Prosecuting for Profit

    Arizona’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Violate Basic Due Process Protections

    In 2002, New Jersey’s Carol Thomas made headlines after her teenage son used her 1990 Ford Thunderbird to sell marijuana to an undercover police officer. He was arrested, pled guilty and faced his punishment. However, that did not end the case. The government also seized Thomas’ car, despite the fact that no drugs were found…

  • April 1, 2003    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Public Power, Private Gain

    A Five-Year, State-by-State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain

    In the first-ever report to document private-to-private takings, the Institute for Justice found more than 10,000 instances of eminent domain abuse in just a five-year-period.

  • March 1, 2002    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Government Theft

    The Top 10 Abuses of Eminent Domain

    The Institute for Justice brings together the 10 most egregious uses of eminent domain for private purposes from 1998 to 2001.

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