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Civil asset forfeiture, equitable sharing, and policing for profit in the United States

  • Holcomb, Jefferson E.
  • Kovandzic, Tomislav V.
  • Williams, Marian R.
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    Purpose Critics of asset forfeiture claim that forfeiture laws create financial incentives that inappropriately influence police behavior. The present study examines the relationship between measures of the financial incentive and legal burdens for civil asset forfeiture on federal equitable sharing payments to local law enforcement to determine whether police behavior is affected by different statutory incentives for forfeiture activity.Methods Using LEMAS and DOJ forfeiture data, this study addresses some of the limitations of previous research by using a multi-year average for forfeiture activity, an improved measure of financial incentives for law enforcement, and multiple measures of statutory burdens to law enforcement to determine the impact of forfeiture laws on forfeiture activity.Results Consistent with anecdotal reports and limited prior research, findings indicate that agencies in jurisdictions with more restrictive state forfeiture laws receive more proceeds through federal equitable sharing.Conclusions Results suggest that state and local law enforcement agencies use federal equitable sharing to circumvent their own state forfeiture laws when state laws are more burdensome or less financially rewarding to these agencies, providing additional evidence that police operations are influenced by financial incentives.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047235211000316
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Criminal Justice.

    Volume (Year): 39 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 273-285

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jcjust:v:39:y:2011:i:3:p:273-285
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jcrimjus

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    1. Worrall, John L., 2001. "Addicted to the drug war: The role of civil asset forfeiture as a budgetary necessity in contemporary law enforcement," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 171-187.
    2. McDonald, John F & Moffitt, Robert A, 1980. "The Uses of Tobit Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 62(2), pages 318-21, May.
    3. Baicker, Katherine & Jacobson, Mireille, 2007. "Finders keepers: Forfeiture laws, policing incentives, and local budgets," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2113-2136, December.
    4. Benson, Bruce L & Rasmussen, David W & Sollars, David L, 1995. " Police Bureaucracies, Their Incentives, and the War on Drugs," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 83(1-2), pages 21-45, April.
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